State launches severe weather site - "StormAware"

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The State of Missouri has launched a new website aiming to increase public awareness about the dangers of tornadoes and tornado safety.

Run by the Department of Public Safety and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), StormAware provides information to the public about severe weather, alert systems and how to stay safe during severe weather.

The idea for the site began in 2011 and has been developed over the last two months. The launch of the site comes after the deadliest tornado season in decades, including the Joplin, Mo., tornado that killed more than 150 and a tornado in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Ala., that killed more than 60.

StormAware provides the public with facts about tornadoes and responds to common misconceptions about tornadoes, such as the beliefs that tornadoes will not strike major cities and cannot travel uphill.

Videos posted on the site show viewers where the safest locations are in structures like homes, schools and mobile homes. A National Weather Service meteorologist walks through the buildings explaining why some shelters are better than others.

Mike O’Connell, a spokesman for SEMA, said the state is trying to take the vast amount of information available from groups such as the weather service and make it easier for Missourians to understand and relate.

“We figured that if we use video and we took a National Weather Service meteorologist and other experts through specific buildings and locations and had them explain to us, ‘In this house without a basement I would do this and here’s why,’ and, ‘In this house with a basement, here’s what I’d do and, specifically, where I would go,’ that people could then relate to that better and get ideas for their own house,” O’Connell said.

StormAware has also collected links to government and media sites across the state where one can register for severe weather alerts in the area to be sent to their phone. Many of the services are free but standard messaging rates will apply.

O’Connell said the National Weather Service hopes all Missouri households will purchase a weather alert radio and that they will become as common as smoke detectors.

“The weather service thinks that these (weather alert radios) that are going to go off in the middle of the night and wake you up are just as important as a smoke alarm,” O’Connell said.

Information is also given about what to do after a tornado strikes, such as shutting off a home’s utilities.

For more information, visit stormaware.mo.gov.