Storm Ready!

Published 10:13 am Tuesday, September 12, 2017

WINTON – Last week, while Hurricane Irma was gaining strength before making its devastating presence felt in the Caribbean Islands and then Florida, Chris Smith stood at the ready.

Thankfully, his expert services were not needed locally, but Smith and his capable crew, along with all emergency-level responders across Hertford County, have the knowledge and experience to meet natural disasters head-on.

And they have a plaque to prove it.

At the Sept. 5 meeting of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners, Bill Sammler, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) Office in Wakefield, VA, was on hand to present Smith with the NWS’ prestigious StormReady Community certification.

Smith serves Hertford County as its Emergency Management Director.

Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith (left) accepts the StormReady Community designation from Bill Sammler of the National Weather Service. | Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

According to the NWS website, StormReady uses a grassroots approach to help communities develop plans to handle all types of severe weather—from tornadoes to tsunamis. The program encourages communities to take a new, proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations by providing emergency managers with clear-cut guidelines on how to improve their hazardous weather operations.

To be officially StormReady, a community must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center; have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public; create a system that monitors weather conditions locally; promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars; and develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.

Sammler said approximately 18 months ago, Smith came to him in an effort to make Hertford County a StormReady Community.

“This type of recognition has been around since 1999,” Sammler said. “It’s designed to provide communities with an opportunity to recognize their emergency services personnel for their goal to receive National Weather Service information, to monitor what’s going on weather-wise, and to distribute that information to the community.”

In addition, Sammler said the designation rewards emergency services personnel for doing extra community preparedness activities in making sure that NOAA weather radios are available in all of the county’s schools and public offices.

“We completed the process last month of designating Hertford County as a StormReady Community and I’m here today to formally congratulate Chris and his staff and to present this Storm Ready plaque and sign,” Sammler stated.

He added that Hertford County now joins the likes of Camden, Pasquotank, Gates and Currituck as StormReady counties in northeastern North Carolina.

“I thank Chris for having the foresight to have our county to meet the requirements of this program, which makes our county and its citizens ready to handle a storm,” stated Ronald Gatling, Chairman of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer thanked Sammler for working with Smith, which eventually led the county to gain this type of recognition.

“We appreciate all the work the National Weather Service Office in Wakefield does for our county,” Farmer noted.

“Through times of catastrophe and storms, it’s nice to have people like Chris Smith and the National Weather Service office personnel standing with us,” stated Commissioner Curtis Freeman. “Since we’ve hired Chris as our Emergency Management Director, I’ve run out of adjectives to say about the quality of his work. He hit the ground running, and he’s still running, and gaining this sort of recognition from the National Weather Service speaks to exactly that.”

Freeman said he doesn’t think the majority of the citizens of Hertford County realize the extent of Smith’s work.

“I wish those citizens could have a snapshot of exactly all you do,” Freeman stressed, as Smith stood before the Commissioners at last week’s meeting. “My hat is off to you and your staff for all their great work.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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