Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group wants to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature might produce.

The National Weather Service recently recognized PTTG, the Henderson County Public Library, and AMG Aluminum North America as Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors.

Each organization had to meet the following criteria to be recognized as a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, according to a Henderson Office of Emergency Management news release:

  • Promoting Weather-Ready Nation messages and themes to their stakeholders
  • Engaging with NOAA’s National Weather Service on potential collaboration opportunities
  • Sharing success stories of preparedness and resiliency
  • Serving as an example by educating employees on workplace preparedness

The National Weather Service initially approached Tim Troutman with Henderson County Emergency Management Agency to spearhead a pilot program since he previously worked for the NWS for 33 years.

“Something like this hasn’t been done before so it’s kind of exciting to be part of it,” he said. “We’re glad and blessed to have this opportunity.”

Henderson County is the pilot for the Weather-Ready Community. Henderson’s developing the pilot project in conjunction with NWS Paducah and NWS headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“This is going to be something that the National Weather Service plans to put out to the entire United States,” said Jill Ward, assistant to Henderson County EMA Director Kenny Garrett.

EMA officials pitched the project during a Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting, which PTTG Vice President of Risk Management Eric Gardner happens to chair. Shop Manager Ethan Evans was at the presentation and partnered with EMA to launch the pilot project at Pittsburg.

As a Weather-Ready Ambassador, PTTG works with the National Weather Service to ensure its employees are provided with weather warnings and safety information for hazardous incidents. Ambassadors act as a “force multiplier,” said Troutman, helping broadcast weather messages to everyone. For example, ambassadors can send an email blast with weather information out to their employees. Ambassadors also participate in weather-related safety training and exercises.

Henderson County will participate in this three to five-year project to evaluate weather and non-related weather hazards at different buildings in the area. That includes the county’s 100-plus industrial plants, 100-plus churches, 20-plus schools, the hospital, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and other businesses.

“We’re targeting and looking at the bigger organizations first just because they have larger populations where people will be working or attending and that’s the bigger threat,” said Troutman.

EMA recently sent an email out to community leaders and has already heard back from about a dozen schools that want to schedule walk-throughs, as well as several factories. Several churches have already been evaluated. All the information gathered will go into Google Drive. NWS will be able to access the completed authorized version.

EMA developed a three-page needs assessment and sat down with officials from each of the ambassador organizations to inquire about their emergency operation plans, contact information, and how information was disseminated. They also looked at what weather-ready events, workshops, and training have taken place.

EMA officials have already walked through PTTG with company officials to get an idea of the floor plan, taking pictures of areas that would make the best shelters during a storm.  EMA also made note of where any glass, chemicals, or hazards were located so first responders could respond accordingly in an emergency.

PTTG’s buildings follow the Kentucky Building Code, which offers structural integrity of up to 115-mph winds. The buildings would withstand EF0 and EF1 tornadoes, which account for about 80 percent of all tornadoes.

“Typically manufacturing buildings handle up to 115-mile winds before extensive damage, and after all that, all bets are off,” Troutman said.

The tornado that devastated Mayfield, Kentucky in December 2021 was a strong EF4. A November 2005 tornado that struck Ellis Park in Henderson before jumping the Ohio River and wrecking a mobile home park in Evansville was a strong EF3.

 

EF Rating 3 Second Gust  
0 65-85 mph Might knock over trees, do a little bit of shingle damage.
1 86-110 mph More shingle roof damage, snap off trees, flip over mobile home.
2 111-135 mph Take roofs off.
3 136-165 mph Take roof off and leave only most interior part of house.
4 166-200 mph Knock everything down.
5 Over 200 mph Wipes everything off foundation.

 

Henderson EMA presented PTTG with a 20-page document outlining recommendations for each building’s best areas to take shelter and other safety practices. For instance, when EMA did the walkthrough at Pittsburg’s office, they determined the northwest corner toward the back of the building was the safest place to take shelter from a tornado.

“That’s really going to be the best location because you have so many good walls between the south and southwest,” said Troutman. “About 90 percent of all severe storms and tornadoes in our part of the country comes from the south to southwest.”

Weather officials want to take what they’ve learned from the December 2021, tornado outbreak and other disasters to help generate the best possible outcomes for future disasters.

Garrett and Ward traveled to Mayfield, Bremen, and Dawson Springs, shortly after the December 11, 2021 tornado outbreak devastated those communities. Volunteers were eager to help, and donations poured in readily, but it was a tall task to organize where to distribute supplies and where volunteers would be best suited.

“There was so much chaos with that, and we learned so much,” Ward said.

Henderson County EMA is working on a template that all emergency management agencies can use.  While the project is weather-focused, the information gathered can be used for other emergencies such as chemical explosions and active shooting events.

“If every emergency management focuses on their own community, we can get the whole U.S. a lot safer,” said Ward.

Henderson County EMA is preparing safety toolkits for different hazards. Henderson is also expecting to begin providing river stage forecasts using gauges stationed at the Ohio River and another in Spottsville at the point where the Ohio and Green rivers meet.

Another part of the project is locating funding to get more weather stations in Henderson County to better provide NWS and EMA with up-to-date weather information for more accurate forecasts, said Troutman. Better weather information leads to better preparedness and better responses in emergencies. For example, Troutman said that knowing wind direction is critical in a chemical spill.

“Every day there will be a river stage forecast for the Ohio River at Henderson,” said Troutman. “Right now the nearest is at Evansville and it was felt that when you turn the corner at the bend of the river, it’s different than it is in Evansville.”

“This project is going to be our way of making sure Henderson County is as safe as possible,” said Troutman, adding that hopefully, this pilot project will lead to a regional and national unveiling of the program. “That way there could be a positive taken from a negative from the December 11 tornado outbreak.”