SIKESTON - The State Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service are conducting a statewide severe weather tornado drill today at 1:30 p.m. and are encouraging schools, citizens and businesses to participate by practicing seeking out safe and secure shelter from a tornado.
Sikeston schools will participate, confirmed Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent in charge of secondary schools.
Bohannon said Sikeston schools regularly practice drills, but with a statewide drill being conducted, "It's a good time to do it."
Regular emergency drills are required, Bohannon added, with a more frequent schedule for the younger students "so they can learn them."
The statewide drill, which coincides with March being proclaimed Disaster Preparedness Month, will include the NWS using the actual TOR code.
"It lets all the emergency service entities test their radios, test their preparedness, let's the schools test their tornado plans," said Joe Burton, Scott County E-911 administrator. "It let's everybody get prepared for our severe weather which is coming in the next couple of months."
Burton also encouraged individual members of the public to participate. "It's really just a good time to make sure their weather radios are working," he said. "If they don't have one its probably a good time to consider purchasing one. They can get those from any Radio Shack, Wal-Mart - they're fairly inexpensive."
Burton said weather radios generally range from $20 on up to $300 or more. "The smalls ones that you get, the $20 ones, work just as well as the expensive ones," he said.
Officials noted the importance of recognizing terms associated with dangerous weather.
Tornado watch means "watch the sky," while a tornado warning means you should seek shelter immediately.
Anthony Ohmes of the Mississippi County Outreach and Extension Center offered the following advice for inclement weather:
* If you are at home, school or work, go immediately to an interior room with no windows on the lowest possible floor. If at school or work, do not go to a cafeteria, gymnasium or large interior open space because the roof might collapse.
* If you are in a mobile home, leave it immediately and seek shelter in a nearby building or ditch.
* If you are driving, take shelter in a nearby building, in a ditch or low-lying area away from your car. Never try to out drive a tornado.
* If you are outside, remember to cover your head with your arms, coat or blanket to protect yourself from flying debris.
* Stay away from overpasses. The under-the-girder-type construction can cause a dangerous wind tunnel effect which may cause winds to be stronger and more focused underneath them. Overpasses also can collect debris.
* Watch out for flash flooding or water on the road. During a thunderstorm, low-lying areas are prone to flash flooding. Never drive into water on the road - it only takes two-feet of water to make your car float, and once floating downstream, your car can overturn trapping you inside. If your car stalls, get out immediately and seek higher ground.
* Be cautious of lightning - it kills more Americans each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, get inside a building or car and avoid windows, floor vents and electronic equipment, especially telephones and computers.
If you must stay outside, duck and cover your head to reduce the chances of being struck. Keep away from water and metal-like golf carts, motorcycles, fences and metal pipes or lines. Stay below ground level, away from hilltops, open fields or beaches.