Arkansas Severe Weather Awareness Week February 24 - March 2

The National Weather Service and Arkansas Department of Emergency Management have declared February 24th through March 2nd as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Arkansas for 2019. Governor Asa Hutchinson has also signed a proclamation recognizing this annual event.


Each day of the week a different topic will be discussed.
We will share information each day this week on KAWX.ORG and our social media pages.
Since we live in the "information age", one would think that everyone knows about severe weather threats and what to do to prepare or recover. Think again!
Longtime and well respected weatherman Ernest Ethridge, the former chief meteorologist  of the Shreveport National Weather Service Office, and popular Oklahoma weatherman Gary England, retired KWTV chief meteorologist , both often pointed out the importance of paying attention to the sky. Many people today have dropped cable and satellite TV and oped for streaming services which provide no local weather coverage. Rural areas of all states get little coverage from TV stations since those stations have to pay more attention to the population areas they serve. Radio stations all are required to participate in the Emergency Alert System (EAS), but are not required to include weather warnings, and many radio stations are in automated mode at night and weekends. Also may of the ways some people get their information these days depends on the internet or a cell phone, both of which are subject to failure anytime, especially around severe weather.

So what are you to do?
Like Ernest Ethridge and Gary England both wisely advised, keep an eye on the sky. You don't have to be a weatherman to know something isn't right. People who are outside a lot, like farmers and construction workers, seem to have a better feel for weather changes than those of us who are inside a lot. 
As a broadcaster, ham radio operator, and emergency communications official in Arkansas, I still and always will depend more on natural instincts and information from people in the field than anything subject to malfunction. Do I monitor NOAA Weather Radio and sign up for all kinds of weather information? You bet I do, but I also watch for changes in the sky color, temperature changes, listen for thunder getting louder, watch for lightning, rising water, and even wildlife and livestock starting to get unsettled. 
Local authorities in Arkansas have installed and maintain warning sirens. Many of them test these sirens weekly. Here in Polk County, Arkansans these sirens are tested weekly, usually around noon on Wednesdays, unless there is severe weather or the possibility of it. Have you heard the tests? Will the siren wake you up if sounded at night? 
NOAA Weather Radios are excellent tools to inform the public about daily weather and severe, life threatening weather. Let me encourage you to get one, program it, get familiar with it, keep fresh backup batteries in it so it will work even if the power goes out, and make sure you gets those weekly tests on it. The Mena, Arkansas NOAA Weather Radio Station is KXI97 and broadcasts from Eagle Mountain on 162.400 MHz
As a community service, KAWX Radio streams Mena NOAA Weather Radio Station KXI97. While not intended to replace the alerting capabilities of an actual NOAA Weather Radio, the stream and associated app are a convenient way to listen to the local weather radio station anywhere. The URL for the stream is https://radio.securenetsystems.net/v5/index.cfm?stationCallSign=NOAA. The free Mena Weather Radio app is available at the App Store or Google Play. You can also listen to Mena Weather Radio, the police scanner, or KAWX from the Listen Live tab at KAWX.ORG.
Police scanners are a great source for information in some areas. Often police and sheriff's departments will communicate with fellow emergency responders about weather conditions. There are many scanner frequencies and talk groups, the best one locally to listen to is 155.790 MHz where you will hear most local law enforcement and emergency responder activity.
Ham radio operators in many locations have "weather nets" that range from casual to highly structured nets, but all are good to monitor (with any police scanner). You will often hear watches and warnings announced on ham radio repeaters in your area and emergency information useful to the public when severe weather strikes. In Mena, program 442.950 MHz into your scanner for the Weather Net ARC ham radio group. Weather Net ARC is sponsored by KAWX Radio.
Apps and email services are plentiful but often are discontinued, so make sure your source is current. Emails can be delayed long enough to show up after the threat has already passed. Changing cell carries will often create issues with texts, especially if you use prepaid cell services. Bottom line, by all means sue these as one of your sources, but don't totally depend on them.
Social media is all the buzz these days. News, fake news, blocked or deleted content, hacking, and everyone's opinion share the same space! There are Facebook groups dedicated to weather, and some great Twitter sources too, but all are subject to issues. Even the National Weather Service here in Arkansas recently had their Facebook page hacked and couldn't access it for a number of days. So again, have more than one source for weather information.
Local television was an excellent source in the past, and still is for some closer to the TV stations. Not so much in rural America. When TV stations were forced to convert to digital to free up frequency spectrum, over-the-air TV coverage was affected a great deal in some areas, including here in Polk County. Cable companies are shutting down as fast as newspapers are, unable to compete with satellite and streaming services. Even satellite services are affected, just when we need weather information the most, by heavy rain or cloud cover. If you live close enough to TV stations, even if you have satellite or cable, consider having an antenna to get the over-the-air signal which is the most dependable. 
Local AM and FM radio is still a great source for weather information in some places. Find out what local stations take weather coverage seriously and keep a battery operated AM FM radio handy for those times when the power it out and you need to know what is going on.
Finally, think about people you know know that might need some help when the weather turns ugly. Power outages and other utility issues are a big inconvenience to all of us, but can be very dangerous for the elderly or sick. Check on your neighbors. Let elderly relatives or neighbors know that you are available should they need help and be sure they have your cell phone number. 
We have seen our fair share of severe weather in Polk County and no doubt will have more in the future. While devastating, it is heartwarming to see a community come together to help each other when severe weather strikes. 
This is a lot to take in, and some of the information here will change from time-to-time. So to reiterate what was emphasized early on, pay attention to the sky, or as I often say, stay weather aware! 
2-23-19 12:59 p.m. KAWX.ORG