When the wind picks up, the clouds start rolling in and tornado sirens  sound, do you and your family have a severe weather plan?

According to the US National Weather Service Springfield Missouri, the Southeast Kansas area was forecast to have scattered showers and storms with the potential for large hail, wind gusts and isolated tornadoes on Monday. After a short break from the stormy weather on Tuesday morning, another storm is forecast to move through the Pittsburg area in the early afternoon with scattered showers. Both storms have a risk of heavy rain and flooding.

Although severe weather can happen any time in this area, the season peaks around March through July.

Some area residents have storm shelters and basements, but others may not know the best place to go during severe weather.

The following locations provided by the Crawford County Kansas Emergency Management are considered public shelters:

Girard: RV Haderlein Elementary school, Girard high school
Arma:Northeast high school
McCune: Mccune School
Cherokee: Building Behind City Hall
Frontenac: Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Residents should also keep in mind, however, that unless they are already very close to a severe weather shelter when tornado sirens sound or emergency warnings are issued, they may be better off somewhere more immediately available such as an interior room of their home. There are no public shelters in Pittsburg, Arcadia, Walnut, Mulberry or Hepler.

According to the Crawford County Kansas Emergency Management Department, the best shelter options as recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency are above or below ground tornado storm shelters or specifically designed FEMA Safe Rooms. Good options are interior rooms of a well-constructed home or building and basements.
Bad options are large open rooms like gymnasiums and manufactured housing. The worst options are mobile homes, vehicles and underneath a highway overpass.

Crawford County Kansas Emergency Management Director Jason VanBecelaere said if  neighbors have a shelter, to consider talking with the neighbors about taking shelter during severe weather.

Residents who have their own shelters are encouraged to register their shelter with the Crawford County Emergency Management. People can register on the Crawford County website, which will assist first responders with helping people in storm shelters.

How to keep safe

Tornado spotters including Sheriff’s Office personnel, police and fire departments keep an eye on the sky and report back if a tornado is spotted.

VanBecelaere said people should stay tuned to weather stations which will share the most recent updates on the storm. This includes indicating a tornado watch or tornado warning.

There are also several phone applications which provide weather details, VanBecelaere said, encouraging people to download applications from local news and weather outlets and the US National Weather Service.

A tornado watch can span over a few to several hours and will be over a large section of a state. The tornado watch can help people prepare in advance of a potential tornado, and people should have a plan of action at this time.

A tornado warning can last from approximately 20 minutes to an hour and spans across portions of counties. The warning can give minutes of advanced notice of a potential tornado and people are expected to take cover at this time.

If people are in their vehicle and there is a tornado watch or warning, VanBecelaere encouraged people to listen to local news stations on the radio.

By chance that the tornado is visible or is in a specified area the emergency manager said to drive away from the tornado and drive to a sturdy shelter. If driving away is impossible it is encouraged to stay in the vehicle and away from overpasses, he said. People can also leave their vehicle and lay in a ditch.

Along with a battery powered radio and flashlights, VanBecelaere said to plan for at least 72 hours worth of food, water, extra clothing, toothbrush, toothpaste and other hygiene items which all can fit in a small backpack. He also said to include first aid supplies — bandages and gauze.
“You may not need them for yourself, but you might come out of your shelter and there will probably be people who need some help,” he said.

Following a catastrophic tornado, it is encouraged to keep away from all downed power lines and to get out of the area. Residents who wish to help following the severe weather can do so by first signing in at a designated staging area to help make sure everyone is accounted for.

Although most shelters do not allow pets, VanBecelaere said special shelters for pets will be available after the tornado.