ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Armed Services YMCA held a severe weather preparation luncheon, March 5, 2019 at the Freedom Community Center on base.
“We started this program to serve the purpose of empowering spouses and their families,” said Loren Mayes, the executive director of the Altus AFB ASYMCA. “We found that a lot [of base members] were afraid of the phrases like ‘tornado watch’... We developed this program in order to provide families with weather information so it isn’t a time of fear, but a time where they can be prepared for whatever may come.”
During the luncheon, military spouses and other base members ate food provided by the ASYMCA, listened to a severe weather presentation by Matt DiPirro, a meteorologist at KSWO Channel 7 news and learned how to prepare for severe weather season from both on and off base organizations.
“We brought on-base resources and off-base resources in today’s event that a family or spouse would see during a severe weather episode,” said Mayes. “Research has shown that in order to get people to better respond to warnings or evacuations, they need to trust the people that are giving them that information and so we try to get them in front of those people, get them used to their faces and their voices so they can trust those spokespersons during a time of severe weather.
According to the briefing given by DiPirro, the highest chances for this region to experience severe weather events are March through the end of June, but there is always a chance for events to occur year round due to the base’s location.
“We are in what is commonly referred to as tornado alley,” said Wes Lee, who was running the Oklahoma Mesonet information booth at the event. “That is where the cold fronts coming from the North merge with the warm fronts that come from the Gulf of Mexico, so it is not uncommon to get severe weather events in this part of the United States. Severe weather events could be anything from severe thunderstorms with excessive winds, very large hail, lighting events, flooding or worst-case scenario tornados that do a lot of damage.”
The Oklahoma Mesonet is a network of environmental monitoring stations. The network was designed and implemented by scientists at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
Other organizations that set up information booths for the event were the 97th Operations Support Squadron weather flight, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. All of the booths offered information about severe weather and preparation for such events.
“I find this event is important because we are somewhat of a hotbed for severe weather,” said Mayes, who grew up in this area. “If you aren’t aware of what is going on then it can be a little scary. We have a lot of families who get stationed here that maybe have not lived in tornado alley or have been around severe weather, so they become somewhat afraid of the terminologies or they don’t know how to access the information about what is coming, so an event like this brings that information together for them.”
One of the main topics during the event was the various options in which base members can track local weather events.
“There’s many different ways a person can get their weather information,” said Lee. “The main thing is to just pick one and learn how to access it. It could be your local news stations, could be on the internet, as long as you are looking at something local … Weather radios are another great way to get severe weather alerts because that is all it is going to give you. It is only going to operate and alert when there is a weather event in your local area. With modern technology such as smartphones and internet, there is no reason that a person shouldn’t have some method for knowing what is going on outside.”
There are several steps base members can take to ensure they are prepared for a severe weather event.
“Let’s assume we are talking about the potential for tornados or tornadic activity coming on later this spring - have a plan. Make sure everyone in the family knows that plan and what’s going to happen if something comes up,” Lee said. “Know your plan and be aware when those severe weather events are announced so you are ready to go when something happens. Your plan should include an emergency kit with water and food for a couple of days at least, any emergency medications in case you get isolated for a day or two, and the biggest thing is know where you are going to go, whether in a safety room in your house that is in a central location away from windows and outside walls or preferably in a storm shelter.”
For more information about severe weather preparation see the links below:
Be Ready - Tornadoes
Ready.gov - Tornado prep