Editorial: Make preparations now before spring storms come

Feb. 19, 2014 @ 11:04 PM

As the bad weather that rolled through Wednesday morning demonstrated, danger can come quickly to East Tennessee.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service are trying to drive that point home this week with their Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness Week.

Planning and preparing for severe weather are the primary goals of the knowledge-boosting effort that began Feb. 16 and continues through Feb. 23.

“We’ve already experienced multiple rounds of severe winter weather in Tennessee and all indications are we may have an active spring,” TEMA Director James Bassham said in a press release from his group. “We can’t wait until the tornado is upon us to think about how we protect ourselves from it. We have to prepare now.”

Though storms have played havoc across Tennessee several times in the past few years, it’s all too easy to fall back on old thinking that “It’ll never happen to me.”

Just three years ago, during the horrible night of storms that devastated parts of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, an F4 tornado touched down in a somewhat remote part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and left a 17-mile swath of damage. 

Though scarcely discussed, the twister, which temporarily closed 50 miles of trails in the park, could have been a catastrophe had it touched ground a few miles further in another direction.

This year also commemorates the 40th anniversary of the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history, according to TEMA.

On April 3 and April 4, 1974, 148 twisters touched down in 13 states, leaving 330 dead and 5,848 injured, the group said.

In Tennessee alone, 50 people died as 28 tornadoes blew through 19 counties in Middle and East Tennessee.  Much of the business section of Etowah was destroyed and there was considerable damage in or near other communities, including Maryville.

Now is the time to be sure your family or business is prepared in the event of such an outbreak.

Visit the National Weather Service’s StormReady website, www.nws.noaa.gov/stormready/, for tips and instructions on how to help stay safe through the rough weather ahead.