- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - A lot has changed in 50 years, especially when it comes to being prepared for tornadoes.

The Palm Sunday tornado on April 11, 1965, that destroyed nearly every structure in Russiaville and took the lives of many helped spur development of the current weather warnings and watches.

Russiaville Town Marshal Roger Waddell recalled no warning systems were established in 1965.

“We had nothing back then,” Waddell said.

After that tragic day, tornado sirens began popping up throughout the county, including four in Russiaville.

“We have one on the south end on top of an 80-foot grain silo, one on top of the water tower 120 feet high and one mounted on a pole at the Lion’s Club,” Waddell said.

“We have a fourth siren at Western High School that the school services and we active it.”

Along with Russiaville’s sirens, Greentown, Indian Heights and Haynes International also have sirens that are activated in severe weather situations.

“The process has changed a lot,” said Dave Tucek, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.

“Back in 1965, we didn’t have the current watch and warning systems we do today,” he said.

“Back then, residents only had TV and radio to get weather information. They just had tornado alerts indicating a broad area where tornadoes are possible.”

“Back then, residents only had TV and radio to get weather information. They just had tornado alerts indicating a broad area where tornadoes are possible.”

Tucek said the Palm Sunday tornado changed all that.

“That was one of the events that helped spur the further development of the use of the weather radio,” said Tucek. “In part, it also was responsible for the development of Doppler Radar.

“Of course we’ve seen a dramatic increase in communication also. The radio station in Kokomo does a fantastic job and the TV stations in Indianapolis do a tremendous job of keeping people informed.”

Social media, in the form of Facebook and Twitter, also have changed how people get information, including weather reports and updates.

“There are so many different ways people are being alerted,” Tucek said.

“Cellphones also are a tremendous resource,” he added.

“Everyone who has a smartphone will automatically get tornado warnings and flash flood warnings. They are built into 95-plus percent of the smart cellphones.”

Emergency weather alert radios like the one the city of Kokomo distributes also help to keep people from being caught unaware.

The battery-powered radios air more than 60 emergency alerts such as hazardous weather and other local area warnings, including up-to-date weather information broadcast directly from the National Weather Service.

People living in Kokomo can purchase a Weather Radio for $9 by stopping in at the Welcome Center on the first floor in City Hall, 100 S. Union St.

Howard County residents are also encouraged to sign up for citizen alerts by going to howardcosheriff.com and clicking citizen alert notification sign up. This system will call, text or email those who sign up to notify them of emergency situations.

In addition to the warning systems, local officials participate in Severe Weather Preparedness Week to help residents be prepared in case of severe weather.

Along with sending out awareness information, the state conducts a tornado drill to test emergency plans.

The Howard County/Kokomo Emergency Management Agency also helps keep people in the loop when it comes to bad weather by hosting a SkyWarn class every March.

SkyWarn is a volunteer program with nearly 290,000 trained severe-weather spotters. These volunteers help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/1ywMYyo

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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