Severe Weather Awareness Week 2016: Gov. Nixon urges Missourians to be prepared for severe weather, announces funding for projects to build tornado safe rooms, install warning sirens

March 9, 2016
Annual safety effort focuses on tornado, severe storms, lightning and flooding safety; 23 of 27 flooding deaths in 2015 in Missouri involved motor vehicles and flash flooding
Jefferson City, MO

With spring severe weather season approaching and possible flooding in the immediate forecast for much of the state, Gov. Jay Nixon today called on Missourians to renew their efforts to prepare for potential deadly flooding, tornadoes and severe storms.

On the eve of Severe Weather Awareness Week (March 14-18), the Governor also announced he has authorized theState Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to move forward with proposals for 10 more projects around the state to construct tornado safe rooms or install outdoor warning sirens.

“The severe weather we had in late December was a painful reminder of just how dangerous flooding and severe storms can be at any time of the year,” Gov. Nixon said. “I urge all Missourians to plan for severe weather and understand the threat posed by driving in areas experiencing flash flooding. I also want to thank all of our dedicated emergency management and response personnel for keeping people safe during severe weather and spreading the word about these very real dangers.”

Severe Weather Awareness Week is an annual effort by the National Weather Service, SEMA and Missouri’s local emergency managers to help Missourians prepare for dangerous tornadoes, severe storms, lightning and flooding. Last year was an especially deadly year for flash flooding in Missouri, with the same number of  flooding deaths in Missouri reported by the National Weather Service last year (27) as in the previous eight years combined. According to the weather service, 23 of the people who were killed had been in vehicles.    

The Governor said flash flooding facts, safety tips and safety videos are available at mo.gov/stopfloodingdeaths, and he stressed these tips:

  • Flash flooding kills far more people in the U.S. than tornadoes, lightning or hurricanes, making it the primary killer among all severe weather hazards, according to NOAA.
  • More than half of all flash flooding related fatalities are vehicle related.
  • Less than a foot of moving water is enough to push a vehicle.
  • Never expect barriers to block off flooded low-water crossings because floodwaters often rises so quickly authorities cannot close a road or put up barriers in time.
  • Motorists may wind up in flood waters before seeing the flooding because of limited visibility due to darkness or heavy rain. Don’t drive in areas experiencing flash flooding unless absolutely necessary. Turn Around Don’t Drown.
  • Never think that because you made it across a flooded low-water crossing in the past that you’ll make it the next time. Many areas saw record flooding in 2015 and others will in the future.
  • If you’re tempted to drive into floodwater because it appears shallow, understand floodwaters often wash out roads or compromise their structural integrity.

Protecting Missourians from tornadoes

Today, the Governor also announced he has authorized SEMA to move ahead with proposals for severe weather shelters in six locations and outdoor warning sirens in four other locations. SEMA would use just over $5.2 million inFederal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hazard mitigation grant funds for the projects; the FEMA program provides 75 percent of the funding for approved projects, and local grant recipients pay the remaining 25 percent of the costs.

The school safe room proposals that were authorized are in:

  • Christian County: The Spokane R-VII School District has proposed building a 4,100-square-foot safe room that will shelter 517 people and be part of the Highlandville Elementary School campus
  • Greene and Webster counties: The city of Rogersville has proposed building an 8,200-square-foot safe room in the Logan-Rogersville School District that would shelter 1,300 people. The safe room space would also be used as a gymnasium.
  • Laclede County: The Laclede County R-I School District has proposed building an 8,700-square-foot safe room that would shelter 1,134 people at the school campus in Conway.
  • Oregon County: The Couch R-I School District has proposed building a 3,000-square-foot safe room that would shelter 300 people at the school campus in Myrtle.
  • Ozark County: The Bakersfield R-IV School District has proposed building a 3,900-square-foot safe room that would shelter 571 people and be part of the school campus in Bakersfield. In addition, the Dora R-III School District has proposed building a 3,200-square-foot safe room that would shelter 450 people and be part of the school campus in Dora.

The outdoor warning siren projects are in:

  • City of Independence: The city has proposed installing an outdoor voice warning siren in the center of the downtown square, an area which often hosts visitors who are unfamiliar with the area in the event of severe weather.
  • Jackson County: The county has proposed installing an all hazard outdoor warning system in Landahl Park in Blue Springs.
  • Shannon County: The county has proposed installing two outdoor warning sirens for the communities of Birch Tree and Eminence.
  • Texas County: The county has proposed installing outdoor warning sirens for the communities of Cabool, Licking and Summersville.

Missouri currently has 168 completed safe rooms across the state. Since Gov. Nixon took office, he has approved or Missouri has moved forward with 188 community safe room projects, with 123 of those projects in schools. The completed projects and those being designed or constructed would be capable of protecting more than 210,000 Missourians in severe weather.

Gov. Nixon said the state of Missouri has created the StormAware website to show people how to protect themselves from tornadoes in specific types of structures. The site contains videos focused on buildings with and without basements, mobile homes, and schools, as well as videos on flash flooding safety, tornado sirens and weather alert radios. 

To help Missourians prepare for potential tornadoes, Severe Weather Awareness Week will include the annualStatewide Tornado Drill, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15. If severe weather is forecast for that day, the drill will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 17. 

More information on severe weather preparedness and how Missouri families, schools and businesses can use Severe Weather Awareness Week to learn more about weather safety terminology, tornadoes, flash flooding, severe thunderstorms and NOAA weather radios is available from the National Weather Service at http://www.weather.gov/lsx/severeweek.