Emergency managers and meteorologists are actively promoting Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness Week, which begins Sunday, Feb. 17, and goes through Saturday, Feb. 23.
"We sometimes wait until the storm is upon us to think preparedness. If we consider the lingering impact of Superstorm Sandy and our own experiences with tornadoes already in 2013, it should be pretty clear that waiting to be ready is not a plan that's going to save your life or the lives of your family," said Jim Bassham, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), in a news release.
Throughout the week, TEMA, the National Weather Service (NWS), Tennessee Association of Broadcasters (TAB) and other supporting groups will conduct educational activities and drills to help people prepare for tornadoes, damaging winds, flash floods, lightning and hail.
The NWS and its Skywarn Storm Spotters Network will focus each day of the week on safety steps and warnings for specific weather threats, such as lightning and flash flooding.
COUNTY SCHOOLS DRILLS
For Tennessee's number one threat, tornadoes, NWS will conduct this year's statewide tornado drill about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Drills at Greene County schools are planned to coincide with Severe Weather Awareness Week, said Heather Sipe, operations officer for the Greene County Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security.
"As we've already seen in 2013, severe weather can happen any time in Tennessee, but the greatest threat occurs from March through May," said Tom Johnstone, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Nashville.
"Severe Weather Awareness Week in February is a chance for Tennesseans to learn about, and prepare for, all of the hazards the upcoming severe weather season will bring," Johnstone said.
UPDATED RADIO PLAN
TEMA will conduct a statewide emergency communications radio exercise on Wednesday, Feb. 20, to illustrate how emergency responders use technology to communicate with one another during disasters and emergencies.
The state EAS plan provides guidelines as to how Tennessee's broadcasters, cable and wireline television operators issue warnings to the public.
It is the first major revision to the plan since 1998 and includes more alerting authorities and incorporates many new technologies that did not exist 15 years ago, TEMA officials said.
"This revised state plan is developed in a spirit of cooperation and coordination in order to give the citizens of Tennessee the best public notification system possible in times of critical need.
"Our intent is to review and revise this document on a regular, and as needed, basis through our private- and public-sector partnership," said Whit Adamson, TAB president, in the news release.
Severe weather has already hit sections of Tennessee this year.
A powerful storm moved across the U.S. on Jan. 29 into Jan. 30, bringing heavy rain and thunderstorms to Tennessee, and producing 22 tornadoes and widespread wind damage to the mid-section of the state.
This severe weather incident resulted in one fatality and three injuries in the state.
According to NWS records, the total of 22 tornadoes makes the Jan. 30 event the largest January tornado outbreak in Middle Tennessee history, eclipsing the previous record of 12 tornadoes that occurred on Jan. 24, 1997.
It also makes Jan. 30, 2013 the second biggest outbreak of tornadoes for any month in Middle Tennessee history. The largest tornado outbreak on record occurred on April 3, 1974 when 24 tornadoes struck the mid-state.
Greene Countians well remember the deadly outbreak of tornadoes here on April 27-28, 2011.
The tornadoes claimed seven lives in Greene County, injured more than 100 people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage to houses and other property.