Severe weather gives symposium attendees firsthand lesson on emergency preparedness

If anybody was ready for severe weather, it was the attendees of Saturday’s 11th annual Severe Weather Symposium at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

And they a received a mini-test of their emergency preparedness toward the end of the event.

Local weathermen scattered and cellphones buzzed just seconds after a severe thunderstorm warning was issued — then canceled — for the area.

It’s that threat of hail, storms and Kansas twisters that gets these weather aficionados going.

“It’s the adventure of being able to see this planet in action,” said Sarcoxie Township Fire Chief Jay Alexander, who brought along his crew for the fourth straight year.

Many of the more than 100 attendees sported firefighter uniforms or other emergency response agency badges while others were amateur storm chasers and spotters.

The symposium was designed to provide an advanced level of training on severe weather, said Jillian Rodrigue, assistant director of Douglas County Emergency Management, which sponsored the event.

Presentations included sophisticated topics such as “Tornado Core Measurements” and “Visual Precursors to Tornado Formation.”

Alexander said his department benefits from the training because the technology is constantly improving.

“They just keep polishing the stone,” said Alexander of some of the developments he’s seen at the symposium.

Alexander talked excitedly about “super cells” and tornado formation, and said it’s easy to get hooked on storms.

“It’s in your blood,” he said.