Safety Message: Severe Weather Awareness Week

WAYNE – Nebraska and Iowa residents will be recognizing Severe Weather Awareness week this week from March 21 – 25 with Wednesday, March 23 featuring a statewide tornado safety drill.

Everyone is encouraged to take time to review and practice your severe weather plan for our home or office.

Brian Smith is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service Omaha/Valley, NE. Smith works as a manager in the weather service office taking care of the public outreach program, training storm spotters and more.

“The decision support services program in the office which is support to government agencies and emergency management agencies,” said Smith. “Also work as a forecaster once in a while.”

There are six offices which take care of Nebraska. The eastern third of the state is taken care of by the Valley, Nebraska office while southcentral is controlled by Hastings; central/part of western Nebraska is North Platte, the panhandle is taken care of by Cheyenne, three counties in southwest Nebraska are managed by the weather office in Goodland while Dixon and Dakota County in northeast Nebraska are controlled by the weather office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

A statewide tornado safety drill will also be issued at 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday, March 23. A test alert will be issued across the weather radio system as several communities across the state will be sounding their outdoor warning system.

When it comes to severe weather, Smith added to make sure to know the difference between a watch and a warning.

“A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather or tornadoes,” Smith added. “A warning means that something has been detected and you need to take action immediately to protect yourself.”

Nebraska normally averages 51 tornadoes throughout the year as 44 were recorded in 2021. Most occurred on December 15.

“When we had that big windstorm and small tornadoes that went through the eastern half of the state,” Smith mentioned.

There were 28 confirmed tornadoes within Nebraska and prior to December 15, only five Nebraska tornadoes had occurred in December since 1950. The strongest wind gust was 93 mph at the Lincoln Airport last year. There were only two reported injuries despite countless instances of damage primarily to irrigation pivots, outbuildings, power lines/poles, trees and some homes.

“One thing that people should do is just try to be prepared,” said Smith. “Practice during the drill time and watch out for storms this season.”

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