By Bill Fortune
Springtime in the Rockies is best described as a time for changing weather patterns. Most people don’t think of a March as a “tornado month” in Colorado. However, the people of Holly, Colo. will be quick to remind you of how fast the weather can change. On March 22, 2007 a tornado developed in extreme southeast Colorado just west of the Kansas border. It intensified and moved rapidly north, hitting the town of Holly at 8:11 p.m.
The tornado hit on the south side of town and cut a half-mile swath of total destruction as it surged through Holly. The storm destroyed 35 homes, damaged 32 more, caused one fatality and injured 11. The damage occurred in an instant, leaving a path of destruction more than 2 miles long and several blocks wide.
This was a devastating event for the people of Holly, and scars from the storm are still evident in the town. There are important lessons that we can all learn from an event like this. The first lesson is to recognize that spring is when we move from the cold season into the warm season and the time of year responsible for the most violent weather even in Colorado. We usually thing of May and June as tornado months in Colorado but they have occurred from March through October.
The second lesson is that we need to recognize the threat and prepare accordingly.
• Having a kit with emergency supplies can help lessen the impact of an emergency.
• Having a plan for evacuation and communication will allow us to respond correctly and quickly.
• Staying informed about rapidly changing weather conditions will keep us one step ahead of a disaster.
• Updating our skills in CPR and First Aid will be a great help in times of crisis.
Now is the time to assess your readiness. Don’t wait until storms clouds are already forming to think about what you should do. If you haven’t already, download the Red Cross Tornado app for your smartphone or tablet. It is available for Android and iPhone. Make sure you set it up to alert you to weather emergency messages like a tornado watch or warning. The app is available from www.redcross.org/mobileapps and from Google Play and iTunes.
You can learn a lot more about being prepared and how to respond to emergencies such as tornadoes, floods and wildfires by going to www.redcross.org/prepare. You can also attend a Be Red Cross Ready class to learn. Go to www.redcross.org/colorado to find a class in your area.