Paducah’s National Weather Service office is ready for the coming tornado season. The staff has had to make some adjustments after experiencing a power outage and technical difficulties during the December tornado outbreak.
The office lost power unexpectedly the night of Dec. 10. Steve Eddy, meteorologist-in-charge, said the office has generators and systems that are 25 to 30 years old.
“I don’t know why, but power failed and then our generator didn’t want to start,” Eddy said. “After we fixed that, the transfer switch — which the power would be transferred from commercial to generator — that switch failed, also.”
Those issues led to a few other problems, but they have all been repaired or resolved. The office has run tests on the system and it has been working properly since the repairs.
Eddy said the transfer switch isn’t supported anywhere in the country due to its age, but a stable solution was developed. Eddy said the age and condition of their equipment is a weakness.
“The world’s passed us by,” Eddy said. “Things that we had 30 years ago no longer exist, so it’s very difficult to find parts for things like that.”
Most National Weather Services offices use a similar system, Eddy said, but equipment hasn’t been a widespread issue for the organization. He thinks there has been money allocated from the government to address the potential problems. Normally, there are annual funds available for upkeep of the building.
“We’re very proud of the fact that our facilities, technicians and the employees here have taken great care to keep these buildings in great repair,” Eddy said.
The office has worked to evolve as technology has changed and building codes have been updated.
If something were to impact the Paducah office again as the area gets into tornado season, the network does have backups in place. The primary backup for Paducah is the Louisville office and the secondary backup is the office in Springfield, Missouri. Any additional backups would be in a different region, Eddy said, such as the Dakotas.
“It’s something the National Weather Service takes very seriously is the ability to provide warnings, watches and advisories to protect lives and property 24/7, 365, everywhere that is covered and governed by the United States government, so we found ways to make that happen,” Eddy said.
How residents can prepare
One piece of advice Eddy gave for the upcoming severe weather season was to have answers to questions about what one might do when a disaster strikes.
“You also need to take a look at what happens if your power is cut? What happens if lightning strikes your house? What happens if a tornado strikes your community? What happens if you’re threatened by one? Do you have a plan to make sure that you and your family, your loved ones, are safe? And be thinking about that before that happens,” Eddy said. “Because when it’s happening, when the alert goes out that a tornado is about to strike your community, it’s too late to be thinking, ‘Where should I go?”
He also said it’s good practice to have redundant systems to get weather warnings, like having both a weather radio and watching the weather on TV or checking it through a cell phone.
“Just be aware you’re getting back into peak tornado season and stay aware, watch the weather, be watching days out,” Eddy said. “We can usually let you know (about) bad thunderstorms we’re expecting several days out, so be prepared for that. And just be thinking ahead about what you’re going to do if a tornado is bearing down on you. Do it. Think about it now.”