Expo focuses on tornado season readiness

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Drivers traveling past the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena on March 6 witnessed an unusual scene, as law enforcement and rescue vehicles lined up next to a Humvee and severe weather-tracking vans.

Inside the Civic Complex’s banquet-side foyer, a National Weather Service machine created a small funnel cloud as members of the Fox 6 Storm Tracker team met with residents to discuss safety in preparation for one of central Alabama’s most dangerous seasons of the year.

“If something we say today helps to save one person’s life, it was all worth it,” said National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist John DeBlock.

From noon-6:30 pm., Pelham teamed with Fox 6, the NWS, the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency, Children’s Hospital and several local businesses to offer residents tips to stay safe during the tornado season.

The Pelham Publix supermarket and Three M Karts and Mowers donated several weather radios given out in drawings throughout the day, DeBlock helped to program weather radios and local volunteer Renee Crook touted the effectiveness of helmets in saving lives during severe weather emergencies.

The event marked the first of its kind in Pelham, said city Risk Management and Safety Coordinator Chris DeShazo.

“We have plenty of educational tips here today, and we’ve had a good turnout,” said DeShazo, a former Pelham police officer. “We are going to make this an annual event.”

DeBlock shared information about the National Weather Service’s warning system, and encouraged all residents to have weather radios in their homes.

“The way our houses are built today, we like them to be quiet. That means you may not always hear the outdoor tornado siren,” DeBlock said. “The weather radio is your indoor tornado siren.”

DeBlock said most weather radios can be set up to sound only when a warning has been issued in the area, and encouraged residents to always pay attention to the Weather Service’s polygon warning system.

Through the polygon system, the Weather Service is able to specifically outline areas in the most danger when a warning is issued.

“We try to do as much outreach as we can. Our partnerships with local governments, the media and the EMA can save lives,” DeBlock said.