When it comes to being prepared for severe weather, Wichita County has an edge over any other county in the nation.
"The Wichita County area, probably across the united states has the most different types of storm ready communities," said Rick Smith, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
That achievement was made official today when Sheppard Air Force Base received a StormReady certification from the National Weather Service. In fact, the base is now the only air force facility in Texas to have that recognition. Communities or entities have to be very well prepared for hazardous weather and flooding in order to become StormReady.
"The requirements have to do with the number of ways that the air force base has to receive warnings about weather. The number of different ways they have to spread warning messages to the staff and population on base here and education campaigns," said Smith.
The base's emergency management specialist says the facility had all the infrastructure in place to get the certification. The only thing that needed tweaking was the communication system.
"More or less just maintaining the systems that we have already. We did need to develop two additional measures to receive notifications from the National Weather Service at our emergency operations center," said Jeremy Kirk, the emergency management specialist at Sheppard AFB.
Air Force base officials say they will continue to work closely with the city and the county to make sure our area continues to a lead the way in severe weather preparedness.
"With the city and the county being StormReady and now Sheppard Air Force Base being StormReady, that can only go so far. Every person in Wichita County and in Texoma needs to have their own storm ready plan to be prepared," said Smith.
To be recognized as StormReady, a community or entity must also maintain a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have more than one way to receive National Weather Service warnings and to alert the public; be able to monitor local weather and flood conditions; conduct community preparedness programs; and develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
Other communities and entities that are Storm Ready in Wichita Co. are the city of Wichita Falls, Burkburnett, Midwestern State University, United Regional Hospital, Kell West Hospital, the Wichita Falls Independent School District and several manufacturing facilities.