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September 23rd, 2023

storm rainbowA raInbow stretches across the Panhandle sky earlier this spring. Storms on the High Plains are the norm this time of year which can generate damaging hail and heavy rainfall but also scenic rainbows. Photo courtesy Ivan EppELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


On the High Plains, the weather can turn from pleasant to severe in the blink of an eye. With the summer coming upon the area, there are some precautions people need to take in the event of a severe weather situation. 

“People in the community need to go ahead and get ready and have an emergency plan in place,” Seward County employee Anabel Clinesmith said. “A lot of times, when an emergency situation happens, the decisions as far as shelter and all of that don't happen until the storm actually hits, so people need to be proactive and have a plan.”

“People definitely need a plan of shelter and where that's going to be. Plan and supply yourself with what you know you're going to need, and have at least a three-day supply, and that includes food, water, medicine, etc.,” Emergency Management Director Greg Standard said. “With a significant storm, there's a possibility your bank won't be open for a little while, so have a plan in place if a situation like that happens with you and your family. People should also figure out ahead of time the best shelter that's available to them, whether it's an interior room with no windows, a closet, a basement, a safe room in the home, a shelter in the backyard, whatever is the best option for your circumstances.”

Clinesmith and Standard agreed it is also important to have a method of keeping track of the weather during a severe weather situation. 

“We highly encourage people to sign up for our alerts app. A lot of people are already signed up for it, but we would always welcome more,” Clinesmith said. “People can choose to be notified by text message, phone call/voicemail, or whichever works for you. It's very important and very handy for people, and people can subscribe by contacting (620) 309-3558. There's a lot of information that goes out on that app, and there's also information they can find on the count Web site,”

“It's also just in general a good idea to keep track of the weather, I know several people who check the forecasts every morning before heading out for the day,” Standard said. “However, keep in mind, this is the High Plains in Southwest Kansas, and the weather can change dramatically and on a dime – even if the forecast is for a fine, sunny afternoon, that can easily turn into a severe thunderstorm that rolls through. We've been blessed with some good rains recently, and I hope that continues for a little bit.”

With summer right around the corner, Standard added he and his staff will be keeping a weather eye out for the community. 

“Like always, I know we'll be paying attention to the weather forecasts, which typically give us a good idea of what to expect as far as whether a storm system will roll through or not, but again, we know the weather in this area can change quickly,” Standard said. “If there's a higher chance of a system coming through, we keep an eye out and remain on alert as far as watching the radar and seeing how things are building and all of that. If there is a storm that rolls through Seward County that's particularly strong, we'll be out watching things and look for rotation and wall clouds and those types of markers. We also pay attention to whether or not hail could be part of a storm – small hail's pretty common with thunderstorms, but it's when it starts getting quarter-sized or bigger when the chance for damage increases, which we also alert people to.”

Overall, Standard said, he hopes people have a way to stay safe in case a severe weather situation rolls through the area.

“I can't really say I have any firm expectations for the weather, but as always, we're on the lookout for those sorts of situations and the goal is to help people stay safe if an emergency weather situation comes up,” Standard said. “We're in a wet cycle right now, which I hope sticks around for a little bit since we can certainly use the precipitation, but we'll just have to wait and see what the weather ends up doing. I always say anyone who says they can predict the weather more than a few hours ahead is fooling themselves and others. I think it's important to emphasize how important preparation is, it can save your life. Take a few basic precautions and do a little planning, and it'll make such situations much easier to deal with. Have food, water, blankets, flashlights, etc., whatever you need to make it through, and again, have a couple different ways to keep up with the weather and what it's doing. NOAA weather radios are amazing and are a very reliable method of doing that, and I know there are multiple apps people can download to their phone. The important thing is to be ready, you never know when a severe weather situation will strike the area.”