National Weather Service honors county for storm safety measures
When Chuck Magaha listened to reports of an approaching storm on the evening of May 11, 2000, he knew there would be trouble.
"We were doomed to get hit with it," said Magaha, Emergency Preparedness director for Leavenworth County. "We had thirty to forty-five minutes lead time and we knew that storm was going to stay together."
Last Friday morning at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds one year to the day after the May 11, 2000, tornado the county was honored for work it has done to protect citizens from storms. Lynn Maximuk, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Pleasant Hill, Mo., made the presentation of a weather-ready sign.
Maximuk recalled the strength of the May 11, 2000, storm that was approaching Tonganoxie.
"Radar signs and weather conditions were favorable for the storm to continue," Maximuk said.
Because of the early warning, the F1-rated tornado that struck Tonganoxie about 9:30 that evening caused few injuries and no fatalities.
However the next morning, Kaela Humbug, 5, Lawrence, died when the roof of a porch collapsed on her during Tonganoxie's cleanup.
The weather-ready signs signify that the NWS considers Leavenworth County to be storm-ready. About six signs will be erected throughout the county, Magaha said.
Maximum said the NWS considers the storm-spotting activity such as Magaha directs to be of the utmost importance.
"Storm spotters are the ground truth to get the news of what's happening back to us," Maximuk said. "We rely on storm spotters to fill in the voids of our technology."
For instance Magaha said that during a recent storm, 21 storm spotters were out.
"It takes a special person to do that, it takes dedication," Magaha said. "You don't just go out there and sit for 25 minutes and go home you may stay for an hour or an hour and a half."
Storm spotters must go through training classes, Mahaga said, and they must make high scores on the storm-spotter test.
Magaha said he wanted the signs to serve as constant reminders that the county is doing what it can do to be ready for storms.
"We can't stop a tornado, we can't stop a flood, because Mother Nature won't allow that," Magaha said. "But we can prepare our people to do what they need to do to be safe."