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How prepared is Kentucky for severe weather? NWS data shows counties deemed 'StormReady'

StormReady is a voluntary designation given by the National Weather Service to counties that follow certain severe weather preparedness guidelines.
Credit: WHAS11

MAYFIELD, Ky. — How prepared are we for cases of severe weather? After nearly 80 people were killed in tornadoes that tore through western Kentucky, our FOCUS investigators looked into the data.

According to the National Weather Service, less than half of Kentucky's 120 counties are certified as StormReady. StormReady counties meet a certain standard with how prepared they are for severe weather.

A county can be designed as StormReady if it follows these guidelines:

  • 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.

Jim Bottom, a supervisor with Louisville Metro Emergency Services Supervisor, said Jefferson County is one of about 53 counties in the state that meets that threshold. The designation is voluntary and not required by any state or federal guidelines.

"It's just a matter of going that next step to ask the National Weather Service for that designation," he said.

Credit: WHAS11

Bottom urges everyone with a cell phone to install the app Smart 911, which provides notifications of severe weather and other community hazards in a selected area.

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"It's also important to know that StormReady doesn't mean storm-proof," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Ronald Steve.

Steve said weather can be unpredictable, so even if you think you're prepared for a storm, things can change quickly. He said everyone needs to have more than one way to get storm warnings, even if cell service and cable are down.

Of the 10 counties with confirmed fatalities following Friday night's tornadoes, four are not certified as StormReady by the National Weather Service. It's important to note that just because a county doesn't have that certification, it doesn't mean the county is not prepared for severe events.

To check to see if your area is StormReady, visit the National Weather Service website.

Contact reporter Paula Vasan at pvasan@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@PaulaVasan) and Facebook.

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