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Kenmare has plan for spotting tornados and taking shelter

Tornado watches, such as the one posted Monday night for residents of Ward County, keep everyone checking the sky and the weather radar until the storms have passed, but residents living in mobile homes or in RVs and campers parked at the Kenmare City Campground have special cause for concern.

7/17/13 (Wed)

Storm shelter a concern . . . WIth recent tornado warnings, some residents of
the campers filling the Kenmare campgrounds have expressed their concern
about the need for a storm shelter being readily available.  Kenmare High
School has been designated as the emergency shelter for the community


By Caroline Downs

Tornado watches, such as the one posted Monday night for residents of Ward County, keep everyone checking the sky and the weather radar until the storms have passed, but residents living in mobile homes or in RVs and campers parked at the Kenmare City Campground have special cause for concern.

That’s why Kenmare city officials are working to spread the word about the use of Kenmare High School as a storm shelter in the event of a tornado warning.

“The high school has been designated as the emergency shelter for Kenmare,” said city auditor Barb Wiedmer. “We have 35 units parked at the campground, and I worry about them with the weather we’ve had lately.”

When severe thunderstorms carry the potential to develop funnel clouds or tornados, the Kenmare police and fire departments follow a specific protocol based on the draft emergency operations plan being developed with the Ward County Emergency Management office.

Kenmare Police Chief Gary Kraft said during severe weather, police officers will park on Ward County Road 1 west of the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, up on the hill, in order to have a clear view of approaching storms. “The firemen are stationed at different locations all around Kenmare,” he said. “They have their places to go.”

If any of the storm spotters see a funnel cloud within about five miles of the city, a call is immediately made to Ward County Emergency Management. According to Kraft, county personnel are also receiving radar and storm reports from the National Weather Service in Bismarck during threatening weather. Sometimes that information indicates the presence of a tornado before a storm spotter locates it.

When a tornado is confirmed in the Kenmare area, a tornado warning is issued and the tornado siren is activated locally.

At the same time, Ward County Emergency Management Director Amanda Schooling is calling the individuals responsible for opening Kenmare High School as a storm shelter for residents in the community, especially those living in mobile homes, RVs or campers.

“I’m calling just as everybody is looking at the notice on the TV stations or hearing it on the radio,” Schooling said. “I do want to stress this will happen for tornado warnings only.”

Kraft noted funnel clouds might appear during a storm, but that a funnel cloud does not become a tornado until it touches the ground. “That’s when people need to take shelter,” he said.

He emphasized that residents hearing a tornado siren should account for their family members or anyone else living with them, then take shelter immediately. “The most important thing is human safety first,” he said.

According to Schooling, the community shelters are not pet-friendly. “Schools usually have a policy of no pets allowed, unless the pet is a service animal,” she said.

While Kenmare High School is the primary storm shelter designated for Kenmare, in accordance with a signed agreement with Ward County Emergency Management, Kraft said the Kenmare Memorial Hall will be opened by city officials as a secondary shelter during a tornado warning.

“People can do down to the locker rooms for safety,” he said. He added that in his 23 years on the local police force, the Memorial Hall was used only one time by 18 individuals seeking safety during a tornado that occurred in the early 1990s but did not actually touch down in Kenmare.

He explained that Kenmare police officers would also communicate with the staff at Kenmare Community Hospital and Maple View of Kenmare during a tornado warning.

Wiedmer said the city will post signs at the campground to explain the storm procedures. “Residents there will be instructed to go to the high school in the event of a tornado,” she said.

According to Kraft, Kenmare police officers will check the campground in the case of a tornado warning. “We may go door-to-door there or notify them with the PA system from our vehicles,” he said.

Schooling noted that her office sent severe weather awareness flyers earlier this year to campground and RV park managers throughout the county. The flyers, intended for everyone living in the parks or campgrounds, include information about what to do and where to go during a tornado warning.

Anyone with further questions about tornado warning procedures in Kenmare can contact the Ward County Emergency Management office at 701-857-6560 or the Kenmare City Auditor’s office at 701-385-4232.



State agency offers advice on safety practices
during tornado warnings

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services recommends the following safe practices in the event of a tornado warning or incident.

•In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress, or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

•In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down, and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

•In an office building, hospital, or nursing home: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building--away from glass. Crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

•In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

•At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

•In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible--out of the traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars which could roll over onto you. Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

•Outside: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can.

•In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.