Mid-Missouri prepares for severe weather

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COLUMBIA - As forecasters watch for severe weather, officials are preparing to make sure people stay safe. 

On Tuesday at 9:55 a.m. the Boone County Office of Emergency Management will sound its tornado sirens as part of a state-wide tornado drill. BCOEM's training and exercise specialist, Elizabeth Thompson, said residents should participate in the drill.

“They would want to just practice their routine tornado weather plans," Thompson said. "Go to the lowest level of your home or business, preferably somewhere that is in all interior walls and does not have any windows. Those are the safest places during a tornado. So just either participate fully in the drill and actually go through those motions or talk about where those safe places are so everyone is familiar in the event that we do have an actual tornado."

However, Thompson said people may not know the tornado sirens are not meant to be heard inside. 

“They’re designed for people outside to have a warning to have time to get to an indoor safe space before the severe weather hits," Thompson said. 

The test is part of the National Weather Service's severe weather awareness week. In addition to the tornado drill, BCOEM is spreading awareness about severe weather on its social media accounts.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has preparations in place in case severe weather hits. 

“When severe weather is forecast, whether it’s heavy rains or wind, certainly our maintenance folks are aware that that weather might be hitting, and so as a result we always have people on call to go out and address any issues that might arise," MoDOT Customer Relations Manager Sally Oxenhandler said.

BCOEM also has staff on call in case of severe weather. 

"We’re very aware of what the situation is and what it could potentially be so that we can get out information to the community as quickly as possible,” Thompson said. “If the severe weather manifests that it’s bad enough that we would need to come in here to do some extra work, we would."

MoDOT advises people to stay safe in poor weather conditions. 

Oxenhandler said the main tip MoDOT gives drivers is to drive defensively in bad weather.

“If people take the time to just drive defensively, they should arrive at their destination safely, and that’s what we want for everyone," Oxenhandler said. 

If drivers spot road conditions that MoDOT should be aware of, such as trees that have blown over, they can contact MoDOT's 24/7 live operator hotline at 888-ASK-MODOT.

“We certainly appreciate folks calling and letting us know if there’s a condition that helps us know if something's going on out there that we might not be aware of because we can’t be everywhere at all times," Oxenhandler said.

Thompson encouraged people to sign up for emergency alerts at smart911.com.