NOAA 03-R260
Contact: Marilu Trainor
NOAA News Releases 2003
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) has designated Whatcom County, Wash., as a StormReady community. In a special ceremony at the Whatcom County Council meeting, the NOAA National Weather Service commended the community’s efforts to enhance their hazardous weather operations. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.

StormReady is a voluntary program that gives communities the skills and education needed to survive severe weather - before and during the event. StormReady helps community leaders and emergency managers strengthen their local hazardous weather operations by ensuring that they have the tools needed to receive lifesaving NOAA National Weather Service warnings in the quickest time possible.

Chris Hill, meteorologist in charge of the NOAA National Weather Service office in Seattle, said, “The StormReady Program is a great example of federal, state and local governments working together to help prepare communities for severe weather and flood events.” The presentation took place in the Whatcom County Council Chambers in Bellingham today.

NOAA National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist, Ted Buehner, said, “Whatcom County’s proximity to the Cascade Mountains and the Strait of Georgia promotes nearly every kind of weather possible, from bone-chilling Fraser Canyon “nor-easters” to heavy Cascade snowfall, to river and coastal flooding, and even wildfires and tornados.”

“More than 160,000 people live in Whatcom County, and along with those who visit the area, benefit from the efforts of the county and the NOAA National Weather Service to better prepare those who might be in harm’s way during severe weather events,” said Buehner.

“The StormReady program provides communities with flood and weather warning and preparedness guidance. We’ve formed a partnership with the NOAA National Weather Service, and county emergency coordinators,” said Neil Clement, Whatcom County deputy director of Emergency Management. “Preparedness and mitigation awareness programs help communities develop plans to handle local severe weather threats from flooding, winter weather or strong winds and avalanches. In addition, with hazards such as a volcano, earthquakes, and petroleum facilities in the county, this program blends well with our “all-hazards” preparedness and warning plans.”

These tools include a 24-Hour Warning Point and Emergency Operations Center, and NOAA Weather Radio receivers in public buildings and available to schools, hospitals and emergency coordinators. A local Emergency Alert System Plan is in place to get warning information to the public. Emergency managers ensure quick reception and distribution of NOAA National Weather Service warnings. This fast action allows people in the community to take measures to protect themselves from harm before severe weather strikes.

According to Buehner, “It is important everyone understands flooding, wildfires and other weather-related events can be a threat to those who live, work or play in our area. Not only should you know what conditions bring on these weather events, but what to do when they occur. NOAA Weather Radios with the warning alarm feature are the surest way to keep everyone informed of hazardous weather. We encourage everyone to equip their homes, schools, businesses and public places with a weather radio. Our goal is to have weather radios become as common as smoke detectors.”

Hill noted how the StormReady program saved dozens of lives recently in Van Wert, Ohio. The community met StormReady certification requirements just 11 months before a Nov. 10, 2002, tornado devastated parts of the town. A Van Wert movie theater manager ushered 50 moviegoers to safety after hearing a NOAA National Weather Service tornado warning over a special StormReady program emergency radio. The tornado destroyed the building, tossing cars into the front seats where kids and parents were moments before.

The National Weather Service has recognized 21 StormReady and TsunamiReady communities in Washington state and the Quinault Indian Nation in western Washington. Nationwide there are over 556 StormReady and seven TsunamiReady communities in 43 states.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through prediction and research of weather and climate-related events, and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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