Saturday, January 14, 2017

How to Stay Safe In Unpredictable Weather — The Kind We Get Here All The Time

By John G. Warren



I was so excited when I was promoted to main Weather Forecaster and Safety Consultant for the large company where I’ve worked for years. I got trained in computer forecasting models and atmospheric science, and learned how weather could endanger our employees. I also quickly became the most popular person in my neighborhood.

Until I blew a forecast.



Suddenly I was the one who almost got the rental clown struck by lightning. And I was sure — when my friends at LMPD asked — that the strongest storm cells would stay north of us the day of the Mounted Patrol demonstration at Iroquois Park. Again, I was wrong.

Being the public safety advisor for a large company and the go-to man in a dangerous situation is one thing. But what about the day-to-day issues that weather – especially winter weather – can bring for the average parent? It’s scary when my boss is bringing in a group of big shots for a meeting and is counting on me to figure out if they’re going to have travel problems. But what do I do about my own kids if school is delayed or cancelled? I can’t exactly ask Grandma or Grandpa to head out on treacherous roads to get my kids in the case of an early dismissal. Rarely will a school district or a business cancel events based on a forecast; they’ve been burned on that before.

So if you’re planning that corporate presentation of a lifetime, or trying to plan your busy day around potential winter weather problems, you just have to learn to be flexible.

Joe Sullivan, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service Louisville, says it best: “When it comes to winter weather – or any adverse weather – in Louisville, the most important issue is situation awareness; especially while traveling. Today’s technology – smartphones, computers and TV – offer so much real-time information that people should always be able to see a map of where they are and what weather is about to affect them. Knowing this information will help individuals make better decisions on what is really needed before or during a winter storm, and whether or not to travel during it.”

I have a few tidbits myself that I’ve gathered over the years that I pass on to our managers:
  • When raiding the supermarket before a storm, don’t forget the prescription medications and baby formula.
  • Ask a Judoka or Jiu-Jitsu practitioner to show you how to fall properly. The Earth is big and the ice is hard, and no one is immune to the X-ray machine during an ice storm.
  • Do you know the people in your neighborhood who depend on electricity to survive? Do you know elderly or disabled people who might struggle during a major winter event?
  • Keep your vehicle full of gas and don’t park it under large tree limbs. Also, make sure you have gas for your generators if needed. Super-duper all wheel drive SUV’s are worthless when the local gas station is out of fuel.
  • If the kids are going out to play in the snow, make sure they’re dressed appropriately based on conditions. We all remember peer pressure and how goofy you can look with a hat and mittens, but hypothermia and frostbite are real and can be life threatening if a child becomes lost during a winter storm.
  • Before becoming a school administration critic, ask yourself how you’d fare driving a 20,000 pound vehicle full of kids on icy roads. Is it worth going out in dangerous driving conditions to keep those kiddos from losing one extra summer’s day at the pool?

Remember, the time to think about what to do during a major winter event is not when it’s upon you. With a little forethought, you can be prepared.

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