Carter County joined 25 other Oklahoma counties Monday when it was officially recognized as a StormReady community.


Carter County joined 25 other Oklahoma counties Monday when it was officially recognized as a StormReady community.


Rick Smith, a warning coordination meteorologist with the Norman Forecast Office of the National Weather Service, said the new status recognizes the partnership between the county’s emergency management office and the NWS.


“It is a big accomplishment. It is a way to recognize the county’s ability to be as prepared as possible (for severe weather),” he said.  “But we never want people to think storm ready means storm proof.”


StormReady was a program started in 1999 in Tulsa that helps ensure communities have the communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property before and during severe weather events. Communities must submit applications to the NWS to receive StormReady status.


Americans live in the most severe weather-prone country on Earth. Each year, Americans cope with an average of 10,000 thunderstorms, 5,000 floods, 1,000 tornadoes and an average of two deadly hurricanes making landfall. And that is in addition to snow and ice storms, intense summer heat, high winds, wildfires and other dangerous weather events.


The StormReady program is voluntary and provides emergency managers with clear-cut guidelines on how to improve their hazardous weather operations. To be officially StormReady, a community must:


* Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center


* Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public


* Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally


* Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars


* Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises


“We have procedures that are in place to help minimize the loss of life and property, and this is a recognition of those procedures,” Carter County Emergency Management Director Paul Tucker said. “All the procedures were pretty much in place, and we completed the formal process to get StormReady status for the county.”


Because Oklahoma has some of the most volatile weather in the nation, achieving StormReady status indicates the commissioners and emergency management staff take storm preparedness seriously.


“It is not a question of if severe weather will come,” Smith said. “It’s when.”


Steve Biehn