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Weathering the storms State 'Preparedness Week' urges citizens to be alert

Published February 28. 2011 05:00PM

We weren't much past New Year's and the common statement heard regarding the weather went something like "Winter ... I'm sick of it!"

It has been a stormy year for most of the nation and forecasters point to that moisture pattern continuing. That means a state like Pennsylvania - one of the most flood-prone states in the nation - must be ready for the March lion. With the ground well-saturated by melting snow and heavy rain, the potential for flooding is always high.

Over the last year, thunderstorms produced more than 600 separate severe incidents across the commonwealth, including 16 different tornadoes. Also, there were more than 100 flash flood incidents across the state, including the river flooding caused by huge rain-producing systems that visited the commonwealth in mid-March and late September.

This active storm pattern gave residents plenty of practice bailing water from wet basements.

The governor has proclaimed this week as "Weather Emergency Preparedness Week to assure local, county and state officials are all on the same page to handle any situation. Emergency management coordinators in all 67 counties, as well as school districts, hospitals, nursing homes, and day care centers across the state have been invited to participate in the week of activities in order to test their response procedures.

Coordination is the key in any disaster and the county Emergency Operations Center will guide communities in whatever threat arises. As the thaw creates more water runoff, municipalities must make sure their storm drains are clear and free-flowing to receive the large amounts of water.

"All too often, residents unwisely choose to ignore weather-related warnings; a decision that can lead to injury or death," said state Emergency Management Agency Director Glenn Cannon. "Families and businesses need to take time now to review emergency plans and make any necessary changes to ensure everyone's safety."

Also being promoted this week are community-based public information programs and statewide testing of the Emergency Alert System network used by broadcasters.

PEMA and the National Weather Service will also be part of the exercise, issuing weather reports of through the normal weather forecast outlets and via the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service. The messages will note that this was only an exercise.

Citizens are always reminded to follow the three B's in case of an emergency: Be Informed, Be Prepared, and Be Involved. Complete information on emergency planning is available at or by calling 1-888-9-READYPA (1-888-973-2397).

By Jim Zbick

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