Severe Weather Serves as Warning to Prepare
DENVER, Co. -- A spate of severe weather-related events across the northern Rockies and Great Plains states serves as a reminder to citizens to be prepared for natural disasters.
"We have had fires, tornadoes, hail and flooding all in the past 24 hours," said Regional Administrator Robin Finegan of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Denver. "It is also the 40th anniversary of the Rapid City, South Dakota flood, the 10th anniversary of the Colorado Hayman fire, and coming up on the first anniversary of the Souris River flood in North Dakota. Nature is giving us an important message about preparing for what may come."
Finegan pointed to recent events as evidence of the need for preparation:
*Tornadoes touched down Thursday in Wyoming and Colorado. A tornado in southeastern Wyoming damaged 11 homes, injured one person and overturned four railroad cars, according to state emergency officials. The same system unleashed large hail in Wheatland and Laramie, Wyoming, plus up to three possible tornadoes that damaged 12 homes and injured one in Colorado, according to officials there. Hail was reported in Colorado in Weld and El Paso counties.
*Storms in Colorado on Wednesday produced five tornadoes and hail up to eight inches deep.
*Heavy rains in North Dakota Thursday resulted in flash flooding in McLean and Montrail counties, according to state emergency officials. More than six inches of rain fell near Parshall.
*Severe weather is expected again Friday in eastern Montana and western North Dakota.
*Firefighters continue fighting a 6,000-acre wildfire in the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming, and a 227-acre wildfire in northern Colorado, plus smaller fires in Colorado, Montana and Utah.
*Red Flag fire warnings are in effect for parts of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.
*Today is the 40th anniversary of the flood in Rapid City, South Dakota, that killed 238 people, destroyed more than 1,300 homes, and caused an estimated $165 million in damage throughout the Black Hills.
*Today is also the 10th anniversary of the start of the Hayman fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history. The fire burned for six weeks, destroyed 215 square miles and 132 homes, and cost $238 million to fight. The state's second-largest fire in history, the Missionary Ridge fire near Durango, started the day after the Hayman fire started and burned about half as much land.
*June 22 will mark one year after the Souris River flood that damaged large portions of Minot, Burlington, and other parts of Ward County in North Dakota.
"Those headlines all tell us one thing - be prepared," says Finegan. "Make a disaster plan that addresses the risks you and your family are most likely to face, put together a disaster kit, and stay informed as situations develop."
A wide assortment of information on preparing yourself and your family for natural disasters is available online at www.ready.gov and www.redcross.org.
Key things to consider when making an emergency plan:
*Families should put together a disaster plan. Everyone should know their evacuation routes and identify a site away from the disaster area where the family can meet.
*It's important to prepare an emergency supply kit that includes a battery-powered radio, nonperishable food, bottled water, a flashlight with extra batteries and essential prescription medicine. Also, consider putting together a kit to keep in the car.
*Everyone should heed all local warnings from local and state officials. Don't put yourself or first responders at risk. If you are told to evacuate, do so
*Assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are critical to keep the business operating. Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible.
*Buy flood insurance to protect yourself financially. Contact your insurance agent for more information on a policy that is right for your level of risk, and visit www.floodsmart.gov for more information about flood insurance.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders and to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.