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Statewide tornado drill is Tuesday

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Schools, businesses urged to participate.

By James Roberts

The electricity was out. Phone lines were down. Trees were across the road. Cars were overturned. Homes and businesses were demolished.

It was just after 6 p.m. on April 3, 1974. Mannsville had just been hit by an F4 tornado. An F4 tornado can reach speeds of 260 mph.

Christine Gabehart was still working at Mannsville Sash and Door, a business started by her and her husband James, when someone stopped by and warned them of the approaching storm.

"We bolted up shop and went to the house. We went straight to the basement. We could see the funnel cloud. It looked like it was coming right at us."

The Gabeharts' home was spared. However, she said the tornado nearly demolished Mannsville Sash and Door.

"After we came out [of the basement], there was just debris floating down everywhere."

The twister was preceded by a hailstorm, Gabehart said.

"The horses would run into the barn to get away from the hail, but the noise would make them run back out. They were going wild. Then, it was just suddenly quiet."

Donald Penn lived about a mile from Mannsville at the time. He was outside picking up hailstones. He looked up and saw what he described as a "wall of blue, black and purple" clouds and clumps of mud blowing around.

Penn ushered his family into the basement and waited out the storm.

Afterward, Penn was outside seeing if the storm had caused any damage. He couldn't see any, but as he was looking around a motorist stopped and told him Mannsville had been hit hard.

"He said, 'You better get up there. There couldn't be anybody alive."

Though 56 people were reported injured, there were no fatalities. The tornado left major damage to 12 businesses, Mannsville Post Office and three churches.

For Gabehart and the other residents, the tornado of 1974 offers good reason to heed weather warnings.

To ensure the state's severe weather alert systems are functioning properly, a statewide tornado drill will be conducted tomorrow. At 10:07 a.m., the National Weather Service will conduct a tornado warning test that will activate NOAA Weather Radios and broadcast media, allowing schools, businesses and residents across the state to participate in the annual tornado safety drill. In Campbellsville, the fire department siren will sound seven times to signify this test warning.

To help ensure students know what to do in the event of a weather-related emergency, local schools will put their emergency plans into practice during the drill.

"In the event of a tornado warning, the principal alerts teachers and students to follow our tornado plan," said Melissa Long, assistant principal at Taylor County Elementary School. "Students exit their classrooms and enter the hallway where they assume the proper position for a tornado."

Facing the interior walls of the hallway, the students cover their heads with their hands, Long said. All doors are closed and students and staff avoid windowed areas.

"Adults are stationed in different areas of the building to assist students," Long said. "We are lucky to have a basement level in our school. We diligently try to get as many classrooms as possible to the basement level during a tornado warning."

Campbellsville High School's plan works much the same, said Principal Mike Deaton. Deaton sounds an alarm and students and staff head for designated safe areas throughout the building.

"Our local 911 team notifies us in a very prompt manner of impending weather," Deaton said. "If there is a watch or warning, I pass along such information to staff members."

David Petett, CES principal, said his school's process begins when a watch has been issued. A watch is used when the risk of hazardous winter weather has increased significantly. A warning is issued when an event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence.

"For a tornado watch, we have a code yellow, which alerts our teachers that conditions are right for a tornado and to be alert for any further warnings. CES officials will also use the radio to monitor weather alerts."

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.

Be Prepared

Gov. Steve Beshear has proclaimed March as Severe Weather Preparedness month. As a result, state officials are offering preparedness advice.

Brig. Gen. John W. Heltzel, director of Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, stated in a press release, "Be prepared. You should have a three-day supply of food and water for each member of your family, along with essentials such as medicines, flash lights, radio, extra batteries, matches, candles, first aid supplies, etc."

Kentucky Division of Emergency Management also offers the following tips.

- Know in advance your weather forecasts.

- Own a battery backup NOAA Weather Alert Radio.

- Stay tuned to your local broadcasting stations.

- Discuss conditions with family member and know their location during times of known potentially threatening conditions.

- Form an emergency plan that includes instructions on how to turn off utilities if instructed to do so, identification of safe locations within the home, contact information for relatives, neighbors, utility companies and emergency personnel, and evacuation routes.

- Review and practice your emergency plans periodically.

- Make an emergency kit that includes a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and can opener, at least three gallons of water per person, protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags, battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries, waterproof matches and candles, local phone book, special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members and an extra set of car keys.

- Routinely refresh your emergency kits.

- If you own a generator, read and familiarize yourself with the owner's safety manual before ever attempting to use it.

Weather spotters class

The Campbellsville Fire Department, in conjunction with Taylor County Emergency Management, will host a severe weather spotters class on Tuesday, March 10 at 7 p.m.

The class will be on the third floor of the Campbellsville Fire Department.

There is no cost for the class, which is open to all emergency service personnel, those responsible for public safely and the general public.

The class will be taught by officials from the Louisville office of the National Weather Service and will last about an hour.

For more information, contact Ronnie Dooley, Taylor County Emergency Management's public information coordinator, at 465-8000.

Statewide Drill is Tuesday

To ensure the state's severe weather alert systems are functioning properly, a statewide tornado drill will be conducted tomorrow. At 10:07 a.m., the National Weather Service will conduct a tornado warning test that will activate NOAA Weather Radios and broadcast media, allowing schools, businesses and residents across the state to participate in the annual tornado safety drill. In Campbellsville, the fire department siren will sound seven times to signify this test warning.

To help ensure students know what to do in the event of a weather-related emergency, local schools will put their emergency plans into practice during the drill.

Watch vs. Warning

A watch is used when the risk of hazardous winter weather has increased significantly. A warning is issued when an event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurrence.