Wanda Wyatt got serious about severe weather preparedness after April 27, 2011.
Wyatt and her husband were living in Ohatchee then, when a powerful tornado tore through the town, and dozens more wrecked communities around the state. Wyatt’s home was spared that day, but after seeing all the damage done in her community, she didn’t want to take any chances ever again.
“We now have an underground shelter ... it is fully stocked with food, water, clothes and supplies,” Wyatt said. “We even have a tent if our home is damaged ... we have containers we stock with all of our important papers that we can place in the shelter.”
Alabama’s spring tornado season kicked off Thursday, and with straight-line winds that knocked out power and damaged homes in the county the same day, experts are stressing the ways residents can best prepare for severe weather.
“In Alabama, you can get tornadoes any time of the year ... but especially during March through May,” said Gary Goggins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Calera. “It’s always just a good idea for people to be prepared for weather at any point.”
NWS statistics show that there were 55 tornadoes in Alabama last year, a slight drop from the 65 tornadoes reported in 2016. Between 1950 and 2017 in Alabama, the month of March accounted for 276 tornadoes.
Also, there have been 27 tornadoes in Calhoun County between 1950 and 2017, according to the NWS.
Jonathan Gaddy, director of the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency, said that good preparedness demands that residents have as much quick access to tornado and severe weather alerts as possible.
“The primary thing we tell people is to have multiple ways of receiving warnings and weather information,” Gaddy said.
Gaddy said there are multiple weather alert apps that residents can download on their smartphones. Also, residents can sign up for weather alerts from the EMA through its website at calhounema.org, or by texting “Calhounema” to the number 888-777.
“Also, everyone should have a weather radio,” Gaddy said.
The American Red Cross recommends residents prepare an emergency kit in case of a severe tornado event.
Lance Self, support manager at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Oxford, said his store has many emergency weather preparedness supplies and sees a bump in sales during the spring tornado season.
“We’ve got all kinds of stuff to help,” Self said. “We usually sell out of gas-powered generators and gas canisters during this time of year. And we sell a lot of chainsaws to help with the cleanups.”