Pleasant Hill, Missouri            Wednesday,  May 4, 2016                ©2016 Pleasant Hill Times

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Weather Radios Vital to Safety




...“The National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the following counties…”
...Anyone with a weather radio has heard this alarm, and depending on the region they live in, it varies. Some say “Dodge City, or Kansas City, but the alert covers different areas.
...The notification goes out to weather radios throughout the region, accompanied by a high pitched alarm, or in some instances, a flashing light for those who are hearing impaired, to let them know of impending severe weather.
...NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a network of radio stations that
broadcasts the weather information from the National Weather Service Office. They operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While there is an office here in Pleasant Hill, the radio stations in Cass County are in Clinton, Kansas City and Parker.
...While NOAA Weather Radio is considered an “All Hazards” public warning system and can alert residents to other emergencies, such as an AMBER Alert or a boil order, that can only be done at the request of the state and local officials.
...In Missouri, local officials issue other warnings, and at this time, alerts such as an AMBER alert, which is to notify residents of a missing child, are issued by
other means.
...The transmitter for the weather radios only ranges 30-40 miles, and there are 10 transmitters covering different counties for the office in Pleasant Hill.
...The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a National Weather Service Office in Pleasant Hill, at 1803 N. 7 Highway.
...In that office, forecasters are always present,
surrounded by computers and TV monitors to keep an eye on the weather and keep people safe.
...There are five work stations and one warning forecaster, Jared Leighton, Senior Forecaster for the National Weather Service Kansas City/Pleasant Hill said.
...One person monitors the radar, but if there is severe weather, there are two assigned to that duty.
...When there is a large outbreak of severe weather, such as a severe thunderstorm or tornado, one person will monitor different areas. For example, in some instances, one person would monitor north of Interstate 70, while the other will monitor south of the interstate, Leighton said. The different areas monitored by each forecaster depend on the storm.
...In addition to the work stations, there are televisions on the wall, one with a view of the roads in Kansas City, one with a radar image of the surrounding area, and the others have the local TV stations on them.
...“We have the big four up,” Leighton said, meaning KSHB, KCTV5, KMBC and Fox4KC.
...The TV stations provide real time information to the forecasters that they would otherwise not have, or be able to evaluate only from the radar image, he said.
...The use of the helicopters by the TV stations assists greatly in actually seeing a storm, such as the one that recently hit near St. Joseph and Cameron.
...By watching the live video from the helicopters, the forecasters are able to match what they see on the radar, with what the storm is actually doing on the ground, and can adjust the warnings or watches to be sent out, partially based on that.
...Leighton said there are instances when the radar will show one thing, such as a level of severity that doesn’t match what is shown on live video, and a warning might be sent out that otherwise might not have been, or one might not be sent out because the storm’s appearance on radar isn’t as severe as what is seen on the live video.
...The warnings that are sent out are instant, and within seconds of the forecaster putting the warning in, it reaches the radios, and people are alerted.
...Weather radios are not going away, Leighton said, although the technology is improving. Some people don’t have access to cell phones, which often have apps that provide alerts from TV stations, or the cell phone reception isn’t available where people are, so they need another way to receive alerts.
...Additionally, there are some structures where weather radios might need an additional antenna, including stucco buildings and mobile homes, because those types of homes degrade the quality of the signal.
...Leighton said that the weather radios that can be purchased at stores are good ones, and they usually cost around $30-$40, and they can be programmed so that the alerts received are for certain counties.
...To do this, a six digit code called a Specific Area Messaging Encoding (SAME) code is entered for each county. The codes for weather radios can be found at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/coverage/county_coverage.html.
...Frequently, the local TV stations assist with setting up weather radios, and Leighton said the forecasters at Pleasant Hill sometimes assist.
..."We’d maybe help out with that,” he said.
...When purchasing a weather radio, there are several features to look for, including the alarm tone, so there is a notification that there is an alert. This would allow the weather radio to be on silent while it is turned on, yet the tone will be activated by the forecasters in the case of an emergency.
...In addition, the receiver should have battery backup, so in the case power is lost, the receiver will still work.
...For the hearing or visually impaired, specially designed radios have different alerts, includiing strobe lights, bed shakers, and printers, and can also be hooked up to personal computers. For more information on Special Needs Weather Radio receivers, go to http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/info/special_needs.html.




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