Residents of Portales have made frequent calls to city hall over the past two weeks, probing city officials about safety measures during turbulent weather patterns.
Many of the questions involve the difference between a tornado warning and a tornado watch, and what it means when six strategically-placed sirens sound throughout the city.
The sirens sound in the city to let people know a tornado has been spotted and Portales is in its path, said Lloyd Seefeld, the director of emergency planning for Portales and Roosevelt County. When the sirens stop sounding, the tornado hazard has passed, according to safety tips gathered by the Portales Fire Department.
But residents need to start preparing for major storms with high winds — like the one that greeted Portales two weeks ago — hours before the furious weather arrives.
“Look at the sky throughout the day, listen to the radio and watch television,” Seefeld said. “There’s no sense in planning a picnic if storms are on the horizon.”
Two weeks ago high winds and a surge of rain and hail swept through the city after a tornado warning was in effect.
A tornado watch means there are favorable conditions where a tornado may appear.
A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted, either through eyesight or on radar, Seefeld said.
When a tornado warning is issued for Portales, people should avoid driving automobiles and get out of mobile homes, Seefeld added.
After a tornado, people need to watch out for broken glass and downed power lines, the fire department’s safety tips explain.
Seefeld said the most important tip for tornado safety is for residents to be prepared hours before tumultuous weather arrives.
“Anytime weather goes bad the radio and television will warn people,” Seefeld said. “There were people who went out to eat 30 minutes before the storm passed over us (two weeks ago). Maybe they weren’t informed, but the information is out there.”