Hardin County gains StormReady status

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Program encourages more proactive preparations for severe weather

By Marty Finley

Hardin County has been storm ready for years, but a new certification from the National Weather Service cements that status.

The NWS awarded Hardin County Government and Emergency Management with StormReady status last week as part of an initiative to create more efficient storm preparedness and stir proactive behavior in local communities.

The county had to meet a series of criteria to gain enrollment in the voluntary program. Joe Sullivan of NWS said the county met those standards about five years ago, but there is a lot of “bureaucratic red tape” to wade through to gain the certification, which has to be completed every three years.

Sullivan said Hardin County is a positive example because its emergency officials are on top of hazardous weather situations.

Emergency Management Director Doug Finlay said the county has developed a strong partnership with the NWS.

“We work well with them,” Finlay said.

Criteria the county had to meet included the establishment of a 24-hour warning point, which it has through the 911 system, and an emergency operations center, Finlay said. The county also had to develop multiple ways to receive weather warning and forecasts, which it can use to warn the public. Finlay said the county receives forecasts through television reports as well as alerts on mobile devices.

The county also must develop a way to monitor local weather conditions and argue the merits of public awareness through channels such as seminars, severe weather spotter training and emergency exercises or drills.

After the 2009 ice storm barreled its way through Hardin County, local officials developed a mass communication system to warn residents of hazardous situations and have actively worked to improve interagency communications, according to Finlay.

The county also utilizes about a dozen top-of-the-line rain gauges and has held public education sessions to argue the need for advance preparation and the benefits of disaster kits, Finlay said.

Severe weather also must be recorded in hazard mitigation and emergency response plans.

Some of the benefits of the program are the assurances of more timely and effective weather warnings and recommendations for emergency officials to improve local operations, according to the NWS. The StormReady program also helps governments justify needed purchases or expenditures for emergency situations and presents reward opportunities for programs that meet or exceed preferred performance levels, according to the NWS.

Finlay said the program also can help improve a county’s community rating under a system developed by the National Flood Insurance Program, which could in turn help residents who live in flood plains benefit on flood insurance.

The county was given a sign proclaiming its status as a StormReady county by the NWS and Finlay said it plans to obtain more.

According to data released by the NWS, Hardin County has been struck by 21 tornadoes since 1950. Since 1996, nine tornadoes have hit the county, five of which were categorized as strong.

The county also has experienced 32 flash floods, 110 severe wind situations and 50 severe hail events since 1996, according to the NWS.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.