Severe weather puts strain on small communities

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 6/05/2013 8:43 pm Published: 6/05/2013 4:28 pm

Wave after wave of severe weather rolling across Oklahoma can be difficult for smaller communities to prepare for.

FOX23's Ian Silver went to northern Tulsa County and found severe weather in a small town puts more pressure on fewer shoulders.

Silver talked to Mike Smith, the emergency management director in Sperry. He happens to also be the police chief, a volunteer firefighter and a medic. In severe weather he tends to have to wear all four hats.

Severe weather days start very early for Smith.

"Looking at all the forecasts on different news stations, through the National Weather Service," Smith described, preparing for severe weather.

As a storm system moves closer, his patrol car becomes his mobile command center.

"I keep in contact with Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency, Tulsa County, talk with my counterparts in Skiatook, I'm watching radar, I'm out actually looking at the storms," he said.

If the situation gets really serious he starts warning everyone he can.

"If we get into a tornado warning situation, and the tornado has the possibility of threatening Sperry, I'm able to set off the storm sirens from my vehicle or from the emergency operations center," said Smith.

Smith is better trained and prepared than most. He earned a bachelor's degree in emergency management and this summer will graduate from the second ever National Emergency Management Conference.

Smith said the biggest challenge is people not heeding the warnings.

After a string of deadly tornadoes across the state he's hoping people will start listening and making his job easier.

"Be prepared for it. Don't wait until the last minute, because the last minute, as you can tell for some people, is their last minute," he said.

Smith said it's also important to remember, especially in more rural areas, the tornado sirens are only meant to be heard outside.

Smith said everyone should have a weather radio or some other wireless warning system in case their power goes out.

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