April 27, 2015

Whatever your emergency, there’s now an app for that

ARC AppWhether you need to find immediate shelter in a flash flood, you need to know what to do in an earthquake or you want to learn how to give a dog CPR, a new all-encompassing emergency smart phone app is available.

Kara Kelly, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, says the free application aims to answer just about every possible question Nebraskans might have about urgent situations, from fires to first aid.

“The great thing about this app is it really is an all-in-one emergency app,” Kelly says. “It has preparedness information, weather alerts, safety tips for 14 different emergencies. It’s really a great tool to have on your phone.”

Life-saving information is just a few taps away on your mobile device with the app, which Kelly says is designed so you can familiarize and prepare yourself ahead of time for a host of emergencies, or to use during the real thing. It also lets users customize more than 35 emergency alerts so they will know what to do no matter where they live or travel.

“If you have a smart phone or a tablet, this is a really easy thing you can set up for yourself,” Kelly says. “What’s really cool about this app is you can actually monitor your friends and family members who maybe don’t live by you. You can set up alerts and there’s a ‘family safe’ feature so you can keep track of folks in your family who don’t live nearby.”

The Red Cross has released several apps in recent years and Kelly says this new one can replace them all.

“The emergency app is free for Android and Apple devices, either on iTunes or the Google Play store,” she says. “You don’t necessarily need to get rid of all the other Red Cross apps if you have them, but this certainly could free up some room on your phone as it truly is all-in-one.”

There’s also a “Make a Plan” feature to help families plan what to do and where to go if a disaster strikes. Learn more at: redcross.org/apps


Nebraska ranked 5th for hail damage claims in 2014

April showers bring May flowers but can also bring severe storms that pack a lot of hail in Nebraska. According to state Farm Insurance, Nebraska ranked 5th among states for hail claims in 2014 with 21,328 filings.

Spokesperson Ann Avery has some recommendations on how to protect your family, vehicle and home from damage.   She says personal safety is the number one priority when a hailstorm hits. Hail can shatter windows so close blinds or window shades to reduce the amount of glass that may blow inside. Stay away from doors and skylights.

State Farm also recommends automobile owners plan ahead if hail is in the forecast. Park your car in a garage or carport. If one is not available invest in a specially designed car cover to minimize vehicle damage. A think blanket placed over the vehicle can also help protect it.

Never park your vehicle under a tree to protect it from hail. Falling branches could do more damage. It is also a good idea to prune trees and remove diseased, damaged or dead branches to help reduce the possibility of future storm damage.

When it comes to your home, Avery says, “If you are thinking about building a home or remodeling a home in the near future you might want to think about impact resistant roofing which is a special type of shingle that is designed to withstand hail and can reduce the hail damage. That is something to ask about.”

Damage to homes and vehicles as a result of hail cost State Farm policyholders $2.4 billion in 2014.

Severe weather could extend into southern Nebraska today

There were rumbles of thunder over parts of Nebraska this morning. David Eastlack is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Valley and says severe storms are brewing in the Midwest but for the most part we will be spared. Those traveling south into Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma should pay close attention to weather updates.

Eastlack says, “I can’t discount maybe a few storms producing hail in southeast Nebraska but it is not going to be a widespread event like it will be down south from Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. All of this will be developing along a frontal boundary and there is plenty of moisture and instability to produce significant storms.”

Eastlack says even though severe weather can occur at any time, Nebraska’s tends to peak in May and June. He says in the near term we are not looking at anything severe.

Eastern Nebraska to see first round of spring storms

Nebraskans in the eastern third of the state should be getting ready for the possibility of severe weather late this afternoon and evening. National Weather Service in Valley Meteorologist Dave Fobert says thunderstorms are in the forecast and some could be severe.

Fobert says, “It looks like things have slowed up a little bit. We are expecting a cold front to move into northeastern Nebraska during the mid-part of the afternoon. Some scattered thunderstorms should develop ahead of that front mid to late afternoon up in the northeast.”

Fobert says east central and southeast Nebraska could see storms develop late this evening. He says some could be severe with strong wind and hail but there is no threat of tornados.

Storm chasers to be spotlighted at Saturday’s Severe Weather Seminar



The annual regional Severe Weather Seminar is planned for this weekend at the Saline Center west of Wilber along Nebraska Highway 15.

Saline County emergency management coordinator B.J. Fictum says experts from the Iowa Storm Chasing Network will be among the featured highlights this year.

“The Iowa Storm Chase Team that took all of the outstanding pictures of the Pilger twin tornadoes that you saw on CNN and the Weather Channel is coming down,” Fictum says, “and they’re bringing Team Dorothy, which is their version of the TIV or Tornado Intercept Vehicle, the big thing that looks like a tank.”

“Dorothy” began as a 2013 Ford E-350 van and was heavily modified with three-quarter-inch polycarbonate windows and double-walled 14 and 6-gauge steel. The four-person vehicle allows chasers to get an up close view of tornadoes.

The team’s Ben McMillan will give an insider’s perspective to covering the Pilger tornadoes last June, as well as tracking the EF-5 twister that hit Parkersburg, Iowa, in 2008, and the devastating twisters in Oklahoma.

Fictum says the 12:30 PM seminar on Saturday includes storm spotting information to provide continuing education for spotters. The regional seminar held at the Saline Center typically draws 200 to 300 people of all ages.

“The more people we can educate, the more people we can give the information to, the better off everybody is going to be and that’s preparedness,” he says.

Saturday’s seminar will be kicked off by the presentation of awards in the Saline County portion of the Nebraska Severe Weather Awareness Poster Contest, with more than 170 posters on display that were drawn by Saline County 4th graders. There will be several displays inside and outside the Saline Center, door prizes and a lunch. The event is free.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice