March is here, spring is about three weeks away, and with the new season comes the peak of the season severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
The National Weather Services uses the first week in March as Severe Weather Awareness Week, a chance to remind people to watch the skies and be prepared for the worst the season can bring.
Southwest Missouri and Jasper County are uniquely aware of how bad severe weather can get nearly two years after the deadliest single tornado since 1953 tore through Joplin on May 22, 2011.
Last year was not nearly as deadly in Missouri, with 29 tornadoes resulting in six fatalities and 70 injuries, but no one can know when severe weather can strike so preparedness is the key.
Carthage Assistant Superintendent Mark Baker said Carthage schools will be participating in the tornado drill, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, weather permitting.
If severe weather is threatening at that time, the drill will be moved to Thursday, the weather service said.
“It’s always great to have kids, staff, parents and anyone else who happens to be in the building participate in the drill,” Baker said. “It’s a constant reminder of where we live and what we need to prepare for. We practice tornado drills throughout the entire year, but we focus a little more during the spring because of the season that’s coming.”
Carthage Fire Chief Chris Thompson said the city’s newly installed tornado sirens will sound at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, weather permitting, and he encourages businesses and residents to take advantage of the drill to brush up on their severe weather plan.
“Severe weather week is a good time to review your response plans and prepare for what might come,” Thompson said. “We encourage businesses to hold drills and make sure employees are aware of what they should do, and individuals to check their severe weather kit. Make sure you have a three-day supply of food on hand, batteries and a working flashlight, and a working weather radio. An external power supply for emergencies would be a good thing as well.”
The city spent $176,000 on eight new storm sirens last year to replace 11 sirens, some dating back to the 1950s. The sirens were first tested last June, so this year marks the first full storm season with the sirens in place.
Thompson said residents need to remember that storm sirens are meant to warn people who are outside, and frequently cannot be heard if people are in their homes.
He recommends people buy a weather alert radio that can cost about $30.