Eagle adds severe weather info to website

From STAFF REPORTS
Posted 3/31/20

The Daily Mountain Eagle, in cooperation with the Walker County Emergency Management Agency and the Walker County E-911 Board, has set up a Severe Weather Preparedness Center page on its website to help people prepare for severe weather and keep up with developments though social media links.

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Eagle adds severe weather info to website

Posted

The Daily Mountain Eagle, in cooperation with the Walker County Emergency Management Agency and the Walker County E-911 Board, has set up a Severe Weather Preparedness Center page on its website to help people prepare for severe weather and keep up with developments though social media links.

The web page, www.mountaineagle.com, which was scheduled to be activated Tuesday after several months of work, will have a link on its home page to get to page. The information has been reviewed by the two local agencies, as well as the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service.

"This is an enhancement of the increasing use of the Daily Mountain Eagle Facebook page to pass along official weather warnings, as well as advance coverage of especially severe weather that is pending in the print and web edition of the Eagle," said James Phillips, publisher of the Eagle. "With severe weather always being a threat in this area, it struck us that we should have space on our website to bring together the best weather preparation and weather forecast tools on one page to make it more accessible."

Jeffery Winborne, the new media coordinator of the Eagle, spend many hours working with the heads of the local EMA and E-911 offices and laying out the webpage to make it interactive and informative, he said.

"While sponsorship has not been found for the page, we are in the middle of severe weather season for the spring. A tornado can come up at any time," Phillips said. "We were determined that the public would have access to this page no matter what, as it might save lives in the end. We cannot thank our local county officials enough for sharing our vision and making this service possible, as well as reviewing and submitting material and ideas for our format."

The site includes sections on tornado/severe weather, winter weather, the National Weather Service, Walker County EMA, Walker County E-911, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section and links. One will find information such as:

• The difference between a tornado watch and tornado warning, as well as winter watches, storm advisories and warnings.

• What action to take in a tornado.

• A list of tornado shelters in the county, with interactive addresses leading to Google Maps to locate them.

• How to prepare for a winter storm in terms of supplies, and what to do if a storm hits.

• Information on the National Weather Service, as well as live Facebook and Twitter feeds from the agency, which will include their weather maps and illustrations.

• Information about the local EMA and E-911 offices, as well as advice on reporting damage to the EMA after a storm (which can help determine if the county gets a disaster declaration). It also includes interactive contact information and Facebook links for both offices.

• Popular questions and answers on a number of related topics, including a number about how to use tornado shelters and what is allowed, sirens, road conditions and loss of power.

• Links to the National Weather Service in Birmingham, the Alabama Weather Blog, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Walker County E-911, and ALGO traffic.

In addition, for friends and family who might not have internet access, a printable PDF is available for downloading in the tornado/severe weather section with a checklist of needed items, a map of the county and one of surrounding counties, and storm shelter locations.

Regina Myers, the coordinator for the county EMA office, said she thought the new page on the Eagle website is great to have.

"A lot of people turn to you guys for the up-to-date information, like you are doing with the COVID-19 updates," Myers said. "It is consistently on Facebook. And a lot of them know to look to you for some of this," such as updates on feeding teams in the wake of the virus.

"It has the information from EMA, E-911 and the National Weather Service that ties into our pages from Facebook, so people who don't have Facebook can actually see it on your page.

"With you guys partnering with us and putting this page out to the public, it gives multiple ways of knowing this information," including pending weather. "It gives us one more avenue to help us get information out there to the public in severe weather time, or when we've had winter weather, and it puts out information, like they can get traffic updates. So it is just another tool to assist the citizens with one more place that they can turn to for useful information on what they need to know."

She noted the checklist on the web and the printout, for example, are things that one may not think of but that they need to have on hand during a storm. She said the maps are important for people to learn where they are in a storm and where the storm is coming from, as many still don't know the surrounding counties. Weather forecasters have talked more in recent years about the need for map literacy in understanding forecasts.

"If they learn those or even look at the page to see the counties, they have a better idea of where the storm is out and the distance between that county and where we are," Myers said.

Tim Thomas, executive director of the county's E-911 service, said, "It's a great platform for us to get our message out to the public, for early warnings and just to keep weather wise of what is going on in the community, how to shelter in place and what to do in a certain emergency situations.

"In my opinion, it's a great asset for the county and the citizens to have," giving them easier ability to find the information.

He urged the public to pay attention to early warnings, noting his office posts warnings from the National Weather Service. He noted the office was posting information about the weather event expected in Central Alabama mid-week. While the storms are expected to be south of here, he said someone from this area might be traveling in that direction.

"Be aware and weather wise, and watch those upcoming events," he said. "That way they have a heads-up of what is coming, so they are basically not caught off guard."