Each year there are over 10,000 thunderstorms across the United States, spun from Hurricanes, Frontal Boundaries, and Heat Convection. Within that grand total lies an thunderstorms classified as severe, each containing one or more of the following: 58mph wind gusts (enough to peel shingles, overturn lawn furniture, down trees and powerlines, among other damage), 3/4 inch hail, or a tornado. Most would think, wow, a tornado, that must be the worst, but it is not. Tornadoes only share a small fraction of weather related deaths each year. The most deadly of all severe weather events is the one that most people are least prepared for: Flooding. Each year, flooding waters kill more people than lightning or tornadoes.
With the rise in severe weather over the last few years, you would think that the country as a whole are preparing more vigilantly for the increase, but the truth is that they are not. There are some individuals that have stepped up to confront the growing danger but it seems not everyone is embracing the change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed a program in which local leaders can take benefit from government initiative to prepare their area and community. This program is known as StormReady. In combination with SKYWARN, their other program, communities can, themselves, prepare for severe weather hazards. The only requirement for the program is an Emergency Management system within the county, a generous population (recommended around 20,000+ or so)and the will to better the safety of the public.
The StormReady program is composed of a network of emergency management officials who monitor the weather from a center location within the county, using radar technology, multiple ways of contacting the community of approaching severe weather and a network of dedicated volunteers which relay weather information to the central location called Storm Spotters. Storm Spotters have come a long way since they first emerged in the 60's with a growing involvment and dedicated organization called SKYWARN. SKYWARN is the National Weather Service's (NWS) first line of defense against severe weather by relaying critical ground observations to the NWS. This leads to false warnings being decreased while providing critical, hastey reports which allow NWS to provide warnings sooner...in some severe weather events such as tornadoes, it is those precious seconds that count.
Most communities do not even know of this program. A little research and dedication can lead to all sorts of programs in which even everyday people may benefit from. StormReady is a program sponsored by NOAA but is on hold until someone in the community steps up and demands that their community be protected. For example, several years ago, the state of Tennessee did not even have a StormReady county. As of September 2007, over 23 counties in Tennessee had embraced the program while over 660 counties nationwide benefited. It is encouraged that those who want safety within their community, protection for their friends and family and a better service from NWS, then contact your local Emergency Management Agency (EMA) or NWS office for more information. You may also research this program at NOAA's website at weather.gov.