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County declared StormReady by state

July 28, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - As the thunderstorm that swept through the area Monday demonstrated, no community is storm proof, but Franklin County has been declared StormReady by the National Weather Service.

Franklin became the 15th of 67 counties in Pennsylvania to receive the certification, which was presented to the Board of County Commissioners Thursday, according to Bruce Budd, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in State College, Pa.

Nationwide, 302 of the approximately 3,500 counties have obtained the designation in the four years since the StormReady program began.

"StormReady is primarily a warning program," said Don Eshelman, the county's emergency management coordinator. The certification shows the county has taken steps to alert the public of impending weather, including spotter and dispatcher training, public safety presentations and has had the National Weather Service review its hazardous weather action plan.

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Eshelman said the National Weather Service recently held some of the training sessions in the county, one primarily for municipal emergency management coordinators and other officials, and another for members of the Cumberland Valley Amateur Radio Club.

"They train what are called SkyWarn spotters," said Darrell Lingenfield III of St. Thomas, Pa., the club's emergency coordinator. They are taught how to measure hail size and rainfall, estimate wind speed and spot the type of cloud formations that could be precursors of a tornado. They're also given safety tips.

Pennsylvania averages about 20 tornadoes a year, usually in spring and summer, Budd said.

Lingenfield said the club invites the weather service to give training sessions every couple of years for new members and as refresher courses.

"They get a lot of free weather spotting. They have Doppler radar, but that doesn't tell it all," Lingenfield said.

Information gathered by spotters can help the weather service inform communities of what to expect from a storm, particularly to the east, since storms generally move from west to east because of prevailing winds, he said.

The county also had to demonstrate that it has the capability to receive and disseminate hazardous weather information on a 24-hour basis through its emergency operations center and the emergency broadcast system, Eshelman said.

"We ensured that there was a working weather radio in every school district," he said. All major county buildings - the courthouse, prison, nursing home and human services building - are equipped with the radios.

"The radios are only about $20 or $25 and you don't have to listen to them all the time because they have a tone alert" that activates them in weather emergencies, Eshelman said.

The radios also are activated if there is a terrorist alert or an Amber alert for a kidnapped child, Eshelman said.

Fulton and Adams counties in Pennsylvania also have been designated as StormReady counties, as has Allegany County, Md., Eshelman said.

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