Main Content


Main Content

What We’re Watching: 4/27/12

At the end of each week, we post a "What We’re Watching" blog as we look ahead to the weekend and recap events from the week. We encourage you to share it with your friends and family, and have a safe weekend.

Weather Outlook 
This evening, NOAA is forecasting a slight risk for severe thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes for portions of the Central Plains. We urge residents in this area to monitor weather conditions and listen to NOAA weather radios.  Here are some terms you should be familiar with if watches or warnings are issued in your area:

Thunderstorms can bring heavy rains, winds, and lightning. If you hear thunder, seek shelter indoors. Stay away from doors and windows, and move to an interior room or basement.

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

If a tornado is possible in your area, go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Do not open windows.

  • Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information. 
  • Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Visit or on your mobile phone for more tips on what to do before, during and after severe weather.

Additionally this weekend, heavy rain is expected for parts of the Central Plains and the Middle Mississippi Valley. Temperatures much below normal are expected for parts of the Eastern Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast.

Severe drought conditions are expected to continue throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Central and Southern Plains, Upper Mississippi Valley and parts of the Southwest.

Weather conditions can quickly change, so we encourage everyone to monitor your area's local forecast by visiting or on your mobile device.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week Recap
This week marked the first ever National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. In partnership with NOAA, we’ve emphasized the importance of individuals, businesses, nonprofits and families taking the necessary steps to discuss their emergency plans and to know what to do before severe weather strikes.

One year ago today, devastating tornadoes tore through the state of Alabama. Severe weather can strike at any moment without much warning. We encourage you to take the first step toward getting prepared for severe weather by pledging to prepare. Become a force of nature in your community by sharing what you’ve done to get prepared, and help others get ready for severe weather.

Visit and in case you missed them, here’s a recap of all our guest blogs from the week.

Bring Your Children to Work 2012
April 26 was National Bring Your Kids to Work Day. Administrator Fugate took a few moments to speak with the kids who accompanied their parents to work to test how prepared they really were. Surprisingly, the kids all passed and pledged to go home and create or update their family’s communication plan, then spread the word to all of their friends.

Here are a few photos from the events at FEMA Headquarters.

Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- Administrator Craig Fugate answers questions from children via video-teleconference for Bring Your Kids to Work Day.Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- Administrator Craig Fugate answers questions from children via video-teleconference for Bring Your Kids to Work Day.

Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- Children listen and watch as other children from different regional offices ask questions to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate via Video-Teleconference.Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- Children listen and watch as other children from different regional offices ask questions to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate via Video-Teleconference.

Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate encourages children to take an active role in helping prepare their families for an emergency for Bring Your Children to Work Day 2012.Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate encourages children to take an active role in helping prepare their families for an emergency for Bring Your Children to Work Day 2012.

Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- Children got the opportunity to learn about some of the service FEMA's programs and partners provide. In this photo, a representative from Urban Search and Rescue demonstrates some of the equipment used when teams are deployed.Washington, D.C., April 26, 2012 -- Children got the opportunity to learn about some of the service FEMA's programs and partners provide. In this photo, a representative from Urban Search and Rescue demonstrates some of the equipment used when teams are deployed.

Visit for preparedness games and activities to help get your kids prepared for emergencies.

May Think Tank Call

The next FEMA Think Tank call will take place on Tuesday, May 15 from Joplin, Mo. The call will focus on recovery and how we can better prepare for a more rapid, cost effective, sustainable and resilient recovery in our communities.

Between December 2011 and March 2012, 10 stakeholder forums were held to discuss the National Disaster Recovery Framework. During these forums federal, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, voluntary and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector discussed challenges and opportunities regarding preparing for, and recovering from, a disaster.

The call will provide an opportunity for the community to discuss what they think is important to consider when planning for recovery and how to rebuild in a cost effective, sustainable way so that the community can be more resilient in future disasters both physically and financially. Other topics may include steps communities can take before a disaster to be more resilient in the future. If you have been involved in the recovery process, what is one piece of advice you would give community leaders to better plan for recovery from a disaster?

I hope you can join us for the May call and encourage you to submit comments or ideas on our online collaboration forum regarding pre-disaster planning that allows for a more rapid, cost effective, sustainable and resilient recovery in our communities.

We will provide the time of the call and the phone number to participate in the Think Tank conference call in the coming days.

Remembering April 27

The author is the Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency


Today is a day that Alabamians will never forget.

One year ago we lost nearly 250 people as tornadoes tore through our state destroying homes and businesses, disrupting communities, and affecting more than 65 percent of the people living in the state. It was hard to grasp the loss of life and the destruction caused by these fierce storms as we visited community after community.

This past year has been an incredible testament to the resiliency of the people and communities in Alabama. Under the leadership of Gov. Robert Bentley we’re still recovering—and will be for a while—but every day there is progress. In addition to our federal partners that have helped Alabama, we would not be where we are without the many first responders, volunteers and state agencies who have worked tirelessly since the storm to support all the survivors who are determined to recover from one of the worst disasters we’ve ever seen.

I am most proud of the way Alabamians are building back stronger. Six months following the storms more than 4,300 applications were submitted for individual safe rooms and an additional 400 were submitted for community safe rooms. The mitigation staff has been working virtually non-stop to review, process and submit the applications for final approval.

We’ve learned a lot about how critical it is to be prepared. There are countless examples of families who are alive today because they heeded the warnings last year. Those stories are truly inspiring. I encourage others to get prepared before the next severe storm approaches. Simple steps such as knowing the location of safe shelter, putting together an emergency supply kit and making a family communications plan today may save your life tomorrow.

Today, I ask Alabamians to honor the lives lost in last year’s storms and celebrate the journey of the survivors by making sure our friends, families and neighbors are prepared for severe weather. We must take this seriously—to save lives from future storms. We don’t know when the next storm will come, but we must plan now to be ready.

‘Set to Go’ for Anything


The author is a Broadcast Meteorologist and TV personality at The Weather Channel

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Jim Cantore do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

After last year’s historic year for devastating tornadoes, we all recall the scenes that played out in places like Joplin and Tuscaloosa. But it’s important to note that severe weather occurs year-round.

During the first National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, everybody needs to realize what disasters they are prone to, depending on where they live, and most importantly be prepared for them. After tracking storms for twenty-five years, I’ve learned a few things, both from the storms and from people who survive them.

You can’t prevent severe weather, but everyone can be better prepared. I’ve got my kit set to go at all times, stocked with food, water, a flashlight, batteries, chargers, and plastic bags for important papers. I have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, because it’s my job, but we should all have a kit and a plan in case we ever need to evacuate quickly. Even my two kids are ready in case there is a disaster. The basement is always set to go with food, water and other key items including helmets to prevent head injuries. If you’re taking shelter from a tornado, put on a baseball helmet to prevent head injuries. You also might not think to bring shoes. Putting shoes in your basement, shelter or kit will protect your feet in case you have to climb out over debris after a storm.

And don’t forget that not only you should be prepped, but you should prepare your home for disaster potential as well. If you’re building or fortifying your home, and you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, think about options like fireproofing your roof. If your area is prone to hurricanes, tornadoes or windstorms, consider wind resistant roofs.

Severe weather doesn’t always allow us time to get ready – so you should already have a plan. Even tornadoes that tear buildings off their foundations may start as small funnels, and grow within minutes. Have a plan for what you would do if you need to evacuate or take shelter. Remember that people with disabilities, access or functional needs probably need additional time. Plan for this and also for additional items you may need like chargers for electrical equipment, or medications to last several days.

Part of your plan should be communication, too. I wish I could have used Twitter in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina to tweet out that I was safe, because most methods of communication were down. Now, I use Twitter and Facebook a lot as a part of my severe weather arsenal. Technology has come a long way, and there are many ways to be warned of pending doom. So, like most people, you probably have multiple ways of receiving warnings.

Sometimes warnings come from friends or family but can also come from our local TV or radio stations, social media, local sirens, or from NOAA Weather Radios. These radios save lives. I’ve seen it. Just make sure that you seek help if you need it for programming your NOAA Weather Radio. You may want to only receive certain warnings, such as a tornado warning, so that you don’t become desensitized. We know from studies that when people are warned of severe weather, they tend to seek out reassurance of that warning. Please take these warnings seriously, and follow instructions. It’s worth it because we’ve all seen how quickly severe weather can move in.

When I’m tracking a storm, the main thing I’m thinking about is getting people out of harm’s way. I’m wondering, are people getting the warnings and are they heeding them. Even though I’m on the coast, Hurricanes impact areas well inland. An example of that occurred last summer in my home state, Vermont, with devastating flooding from Irene.

Even if it seems unlikely to you that a hurricane will come inland, you should heed those warnings. We have countless examples of this occurring, such as flooding from Irene in Vermont last summer, and Hurricane Katrina.

With every disaster I’m amazed at how survivors and fellow Americans rise to the challenge of supporting the recovery process. One recent story stood out to me from Thurman, Iowa. They experienced an EF2 tornado with winds up to 125 mph. They were fortunate that there were no casualties, but the tornado left much destruction in its path. Within hours, the little town of 238 swelled to 900 with volunteers from neighboring towns and states to help with the clean-up effort. Being weather ready means being ready to help your neighbor as well.

Be a Force of Nature in your own communities. Just like in Thurman, your whole community needs you. Pledge to prepare at The Weather Channel Million Preparedness Pledge, and be an example to others.

Want to learn more? Here are some more of my picks for preparedness links:, and

Severe Weather Preparedness Week, What We’re Doing to Prepare

The author is the mayor of Greensburg, Kansas.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Mayor Bob Dixon do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

FEMA and NOAA have partnered to designate April 22-28, 2012, as National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, and is calling upon all Americans in every area of the country to Be a Force of Nature.

The City of Greensburg, Kan., is committed to Being a Force of Nature and pledging to know our risk, take action, and be an example for our families and community by sharing the steps we took. On May 4, 2007, an EF5 tornado leveled 95 percent of our community.

There were 11 lives lost in Greensburg that night. The casualties would have been much larger if we had not heeded the early warning system through the National Weather Service and NOAA. We were also prepared for severe weather since we live in Tornado Alley. Our citizens knew what to do to be prepared. Do you?

What can you do to Prepare?

Knowing your risk, taking action and being an example by sharing your knowledge and actions with your social network are just a few steps you can take to be better prepared and assist in saving lives.

  • Know Your Risk: Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, so everyone is exposed to some degree of risk. 
  • Pledge and Take Action: Be A Force of Nature by taking the pledge to prepare. When you pledge to prepare, you will take the first step to making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. This includes filling out your family communications plan that you can email it to yourself, putting an emergency kit together, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and getting involved
  • Be an Example: Once you have taken action and pledged, share your story with your family and friends. Create a video and post on a video sharing site, post your story on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, comment on a blog, or any other social media site you’re on. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to help us achieve the vision of a Weather-Ready Nation.

Join us today and pledge to prepare for the severe weather in your area.

Red Cross: Preparing for the Storm

The author is with the American Red Cross Central and Western Oklahoma Region

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Rusty Surette do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

After preaching to the public the importance of disaster preparedness for more than a year now, I found myself last month practicing what we preach.

Dangerous and potentially deadly tornadoes were forecasted to move into Oklahoma during the weekend of April 13. While spring storms with tornadoes are nothing new for Oklahomans, sometimes we get that warning from forecasters that the ‘big one’ may be right around the corner. We were warned this wave of severe weather may qualify to be the ‘big one’.

Immediately, we began reviewing our safety tips and shared them with the media and our partner organizations. We urged families across the state to make a plan, get a kit and be informed.

We were doing the same for ourselves. Many of us at the Red Cross office split the week at work and at home preparing for the worst.

In my own apartment, I reviewed a safety plan with my roommates. We gathered pots and pans that could be used to protect our heads in case a tornado took aim on our neighborhood. We purchased batteries for our weather radio, stocked our first aid kits and made paper copies of our emergency contacts.

Back at the office, our volunteers and staff were working to make sure the vehicles were gassed up, our warehouse was stocked with extra food and work and emergency kits were ready to go. Carla Young, Disaster Action Team volunteer, was in charge of making sure our storm shelter had flashlights, food and other essential items in place.

April 15, 2012 -- American Red Cross Workers prepare for a meeting to discuss operations.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to use any of this here in Oklahoma City.

Sadly, however, our neighbors to the northwest were not so lucky. A large tornado hit Woodward, Okla., shortly after midnight.

Immediately following that storm, the American Red Cross team in Woodward was on the ground and responding to the needs of those who were hurt and displaced. We had relief supplies, people and plans ready to go because we trained and prepared for this kind of event.

Back in Oklahoma City, we were also working around the clock to get our resources and volunteers to Woodward.

Hope and help were immediately available to those hit hard and that’s the lesson all families should take from this -- being prepared builds confidence and confidence can turn tragedy into triumph.

Take it from us here in tornado alley: Get a kit, make a plan and be informed. It makes a world of difference when facing a disaster.

A Meteorologist's Perspective on Planning and Preparing for Severe Weather

The Author, Tom Skilling, is a Meteorologist at WGN-TV in Chicago.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Tom Skilling do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.

When it comes to severe weather, a disturbing trend has emerged. Warnings of extreme weather events, such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, are being issued with greater accuracy and with once only dreamed-of lead times -- increasingly as much as a week in advance. Yet people are dying, and doing so in frightening numbers. It's a humbling development which has forced those of us in the meteorological and emergency response professions to put every aspect of the severe weather warning and alert process under the microscope.

Attempts are being made to better understand how people receive our alerts and warnings, and just as importantly, to learn how they respond to them. We want to understand why we are losing so many in disasters, which we in the weather profession are able to see coming far enough ahead of time to take evasive and life-saving measures. If ever there was a reason for a call to action, events surrounding the historic tornado outbreaks of the past year has provided it.

The 2011 tornado season included 551 deaths across the U.S., making it the country's fourth mostly deadly year from tornadoes since official records began. Nearly as many people died last year as a result of tornadoes as the 564 who perished in all the twisters of the preceding 10 years combined!

The range of new records involving tornadoes set in 2011 underscores what an incredible year it was on the tornado front in this country. A total of 343 twisters dipped from U.S. skies from April 25-28, establishing a new benchmark for the most tornadoes to occur in a single outbreak. The 199 tornadoes logged on April 27 alone set a new single-day worldwide record; and the day's death toll of 316 was a new record as well. April, 2011's total tally of 751 U.S. tornadoes eclipsed the previous monthly record of 542 recorded in May 2003.

The gargantuan Joplin, Mo., tornado on May 22, 2011, was the deadliest single twister to set down in the U.S. since 1947; the 7th on the books and the costliest single tornado to strike the U.S.

For 32 years, colleagues and I -- severe weather researchers and forecasters alike -- have put together an annual series of programs on tornadoes and severe weather for the public at the Fermilab National Laboratory in Batavia, Ill. Turnouts at these events have been nothing short of phenomenal with audiences numbering in the thousands each year; far beyond anything any of us involved in putting these programs together could have imagined.

Our most recent tornado and severe weather programs (we've presented two programs on a Saturday in April in all but one of the past 32 years) took place Saturday, April 14 -- one week to the day ahead of the 45th anniversary of the Chicago area's most devastating and deadly tornado outbreak -- the so-called Belvidere-Lake Zurick-Oak Lawn, Illi., tornado outbreak of April 21, 1967. A total of 19 Illinois twisters ripped through the area that afternoon and evening killing 58. It's no accident we chose April for our Fermilab programs. April, May and June constitute tornado "prime-time" in this area, though twisters have occurred in every month of the year here.

The public’s incredible response to our Fermilab tornado and severe storm seminars year in and year out, has made one thing VERY clear: people of all ages and from all walks of life recognize the risk twisters and severe thunderstorms pose and are hungry for information on how to deal with the threat these atmospheric behemoths represent, and survive.

A veritable who's who of the severe weather research and forecast community has shared their valuable time, offering those in attendance insights into how these storms develop, how they are able to do what they do and to share life-saving tips on how to, to the extent possible, escape these horrors of nature with as little harm as possible.

In coming weeks my television station, WGN-TV, and I will be joining forces a third consecutive year with Midland Radio and Chicago-area Walgreens drug stores, in an effort to get more NOAA radios into people’s hands across the Chicago area. Midland NOAA weather radios will be offered at reduced cost to Walgreens customers and I hope many will take advantage of this offer.

The importance of NOAA weather radios in delivering warnings and watches in a timely fashion -- particularly in overnight hours when many are sleeping and have no access to or are unaware of weather watches or warnings being aired by conventional radio and television or community siren systems -- was driven home only a few months ago on Feb. 29 in the hours just before daybreak when many in downstate Harrisburg, Ill. were at home asleep. A rare EF-4 tornado, with 170 mph winds, roared through Harrisburg with devastating consequences, killing seven and leveling more than 200 homes and businesses. It's in situations like Harrisburg's that NOAA weather radios can be the difference between life and death.

I will be joined by colleagues from WGN and from our National Weather Service Chicago Forecast Office at the Walgreens Store in Arlington Heights, Ill., at 235 Palatine Road on Saturday, May 5 from 11 to 2 p.m. to sell and, if you'd like, sign NOAA weather radios and, more importantly, help you in programming them so warnings for the county in which you live will activate your NOAA radio to alert you of an impending storm.

This week (April 22-28) has been designated nationwide by FEMA and the National Weather Service "National Severe Weather Preparedness Week". It occurs as we mark the one year anniversary of this country's worst tornado outbreak on record April 25-28, 2011, when a record 343 tornadoes rampaged across the South, killing hundreds.

It's a week which cries out for us to become a Force of Nature -- to take time and give some thought to developing a family communication plan which would permit re-establishing contact in the kind of challenging environment all too often in place in the wake of a devastating tornado. It's also a time to commit to keeping up with the latest weather forecasts, to acquire a NOAA weather radio, which can be programmed to automatically turn on in the middle of the night if a warning is issued for your area, and a time to discuss and share your ideas on the subject of severe weather preparedness and safety with family members and neighbors.

Feeling Safe Being Safe is taking Hawaii by Storm

The author is a Principal Investigator at the Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawaii

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week is a reminder to appreciate the days of beautiful weather, check emergency kits, and recognize community leaders.

Preparing, reviewing, connecting with neighbors and leading by example are all part of a community approach that is blowing across the State of Hawaii like the trade winds after stifling heat. In communities throughout the state, individuals with a disability are taking the lead in emergency preparedness using the Feeling Safe Being Safe Training Curriculum.

When asked about this training Kathleen Tabata simply said, “It showed me how to do it right.”

I have been watching this tropical storm of change brewing in Hawaii for the last two years. As more and more individuals with disabilities and other access and functional needs become personally prepared for an emergency, many go on to train others and they seem to ‘get it’.

Feeling Safe Being Safe is a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach for sharing personal preparedness information. All of the trainers are individuals with a disability. To become a trainer, each person must themselves be prepared, and then learn how to share the preparedness materials with others.

If you are wondering why people become trainers, Kathy Chang will tell you, “It feels good; training other people and telling them about Feeling Safe, Being Safe.”

These winds of change began to blow in California with the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the California Department of Developmental Services. Here in Hawaii they have reached gale force speed thanks to funding from the Federal Administration for Developmental Disabilities, and Department of Health -Developmental Disability Division. We’ve also received encouragement from FEMA, state and county agencies and local service providers.

As the principle investigator of the Emergency Preparedness System of Support, I have enjoyed sitting in on these trainings and watching as individuals with disabilities change the way whole communities think about preparedness. The Feeling Safe Being Safe trainers break down all the barriers with an attitude of “I can, and so can you” and an enthusiasm that comes from knowing how it feels to be safe and feel safe.

Bathey Fong, a trainer on Oahu said, “People are shocked when they find out that I am their trainer. They didn’t know that we, the self advocates teach them. They thought it was ‘normal people’ and that we couldn’t do it, but they see us training them and realize we can do it and we are like them.”

The Feeling Safe Being Safe trainers are systematically teaching members of our communities to be assets and not liabilities, in community preparedness. When community capacity is built by strengthening all members, a truly resilient community begins to emerge. When community preparedness is approached from a perspective of empowerment rather than fear, the winds of change can reach hurricane force.

Feeling Safe Being Safe trainers have gone on to serve on community councils, present at conferences, host webinars and teach first responders about their needs. One of these trainers is Nicole Kelley and she summarized her job saying, “We helped our team, each other. We trained the Easter Seals O’hana (family) group and our classmates, we trained the people in Washington D.C. and they came up and said ‘good job!’”

To the Feeling Safe Being Safe Trainers, DHS, FEMA, ADD and local partner agencies who all support them – in a true community effort – ‘good job’ and Mahalo!

Be a Force of Nature in Your Community

The Author is the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator with Wisconsin Emergency Management.
You have the power to save lives… you just don’t realize it yet. You have the power to tell your family, friends and co-workers how critically important it is to be ready for severe weather. Be a Force of Nature.

What does that mean? Here in Wisconsin we’re spreading the word on lessons learned from the terrible storms of 2011. The unimaginable lost of life in the Joplin, Missouri tornado last year should be a wake up call to everyone. A National Weather Service study of that tornado uncovered two disturbing discoveries. Most people did not take shelter when they first heard the tornado warning. And the truly amazing insight into human behavior, people needed between two and nine confirmations of the danger before they took action. Unfortunately the minutes spent looking for that confirmation (going outside and looking in the sky, calling a friend, writing on Facebook, etc) cost lives.

My message is simple: Listen, act and live. When there is a risk of severe weather, listen for the warnings on whatever device works best for you, be it a NOAA Weather Radio, broadcast radio and TV, a smart phone app, etc. When there is a tornado warning take action. Don’t waste your time confirming what you already know. You are at risk and you need to find the safest place possible immediately.

We’re all human. Our brains are wired to search out information. We all want to know if this tornado is real and am I really in danger. But that curiosity is costly. With current technology the average lead time we have between a tornado warning and a tornado touchdown is only 13 minutes. Don’t waste those minutes… Listen, act and live. Those three words helped save the lives of a Park Falls, Wisconsin couple who listened to their emergency weather radio during a tornado outbreak, took action and survived.

On July 27, 2010, Larry and Rita Krznarich were camping on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage between Park Falls and Mercer. Just after 7pm, their emergency weather radio alerted them that a tornado was coming. They immediately told campers nearby and everyone took cover. Larry was injured in the tornado but Rita and others were ok. Everything at the campsite was destroyed. “There was debris in chunks flying through the air” said Rita Kznarich. “If you’ve ever heard one tree fall you can imagine 50 trees all cracking and falling around you."

Larry and Rita believe that without the warning alert from their emergency weather radio - giving them the chance to seek cover - they would be dead. They are sharing their story in a powerful new TV public service campaign in hopes that more lives can be saved.

In the public service announcement, Rita and Larry urge everyone to buy an emergency weather radio. “Ever since the storm we’ve given weather radios to people as gifts. You can get them for $20 or in that range so there’s no excuse not to have one or many.”

You can see their story on the Ready Wisconsin website.

Be a Force of Nature. Pledge to prepare at When you are ready, you and your family have a greater chance of survival. And share that life saving message with the people closest to you.

Kicking Off National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Today marks the beginning of the first ever National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. This week, we’re partnering with NOAA to provide information to the public about the hazards of severe weather and steps people can take to ensure they’re prepared.

Every year, thousands of people are impacted by severe weather threats such as tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Last year was the most active year in disasters in recent history, with more than 1,000 weather related fatalities, more than 8,000 injuries.

Every state in the U.S. has experienced tornadoes and severe weather and although some more than others- everyone is at risk and should take steps to prepare for when severe weather strike in your area. Knowing the most common weather hazards in your area, your vulnerability and what actions you should take can save your life and others.

All week long, we’re calling for people across the country to pledge to prepare and to be a force of nature in your community by telling your family, friends and neighbors how you prepared for severe weather. By pledging, you’re taking the first step in making sure you and your loved ones are prepared for severe weather by developing a family communication plan, putting together an emergency kit and getting involved.

We’re asking everyone to be a force of nature by knowing their risk, taking action and becoming an example by sharing what you have done with your family, friends, neighbors and others. I recorded this short video that you can embed on your website to be a force of nature by sharing it with your website visitors.

Visit to pledge, and once you’ve made your pledge, be a force of nature and share your story on your social media accounts and encourage others to pledge to prepare.

If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #imprepared and #imaforce to show you’ve pledged and taken steps to get prepared.

Here is the President’s message encouraging the nation to be prepared:
Over the past year, devastating storms have tested the fabric of our Nation. From Tuscaloosa to Joplin, the Midwest to Appalachia, tornadoes have leveled communities and left profound suffering in their wake. Thousands of Americans have endured the pain of loss – loss of a home, a job, a dream, a loved one dearly held and forever missed. Yet, as winds have died and rains eased, communities have banded together and demonstrated a simple truth: that amid heartbreak and hardship, no one is a stranger.

During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week and throughout the year, we renew our promise to meet a national tragedy with a national response. To help save lives, my Administration is partnering with communities across America to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards, including severe weather. We are working to improve the accuracy of tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, giving individuals more time to get out of harm’s way. And with leadership from agencies across my Administration, we are collaborating with organizations at every level of government and throughout the private and non-profit sectors to strengthen preparedness and build resilience.

Our Nation continues to bear the impact of severe storms. When tornadoes swept across southern States and the Midwest earlier this year, we were touched by the echoes of hardship. Many Americans lost their homes and businesses; dozens lost their lives. As we reflect on these tragic outcomes, let us recommit to doing everything we can to protect our families and our communities. I encourage all Americans to prepare an emergency plan and build an emergency kit with food, water, and essential supplies in case of severe weather. When strong storms are approaching, it is critical that individuals and families take action to secure their safety and the safety of those around them. During a tornado warning, find shelter immediately and await instructions from local emergency management officials.

This week, we rededicate ourselves to strengthening personal and community preparedness before disaster strikes. To learn more about how to minimize risk before, during, and after tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, visit and

–Barack Obama