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Weather Ready
Severe weather can occur at any time
Great Bend High School was closed Wednesday afternoon after the windstorm peeled part of the roof off of the building. There were no classes at GBHS on Thursday, Dec. 16, but the building will reopen on Friday. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

Wednesday’s windstorm is one we’ll be talking about for a while. Schools closed, power outages were reported and semis were blown off of highways as wind gusts of 80 mph were reported in parts of the state. The airport at Russell reported a 100 mph wind gust at 3:48 p.m. and several fires started in that area.

Interstate 70 was closed in both directions from the Colorado line to Salina, and other highways were closed, too. It was also hard to see as the skies were full of blowing dirt and debris.

In the Golden Belt, homeowners and motorists had to look out for downed power lines, fires and uprooted trees. Part of the roof came off Great Bend High School and the steeple was knocked off of Trinity Lutheran Church.

The National Weather Service recommended staying indoors during the windstorm, preferably staying on the lower levels of a sturdy building and avoiding windows. NWS also advised, “use caution if you must drive.”

Area counties were under a Red Flag Warning, which means critical fire weather conditions – a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures – that could lead to “extreme fire behavior.”

The good news is, no additional hazardous weather is expected at this time. And the statewide windstorm does not even begin to compare to the tragic tornado outbreaks of Dec. 10-11 that affected multiple states south and east of Kansas.

All of this should serve as a reminder that severe weather can hit at any time. The National Weather Service reports that a decade ago, in December of 2011, the U.S. experienced multiple extreme weather events. “Although the NWS issued accurate and timely warnings, over 1,000 lives were lost.”

Officials realized that while accuracy matters, so does the societal outcome. The effort began to build a Weather-Ready Nation. The Wireless Emergency Alerts that were sent to cellphones Wednesday are one of the improvements made in the last decade.

Today, there are more than 11,800 Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors who collaborate with the NWS and help spread preparedness messaging. To learn more about the initiative or about becoming a WRN Ambassador, visit the website

Mark Twain (or perhaps his friend Charles Dudley Warner, an editor at the Hartford Courant) is reported to have said that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. Well, we can’t prevent extreme weather, but we can “do something” by preparing for it and responding after it hits. Nationally, we recommend giving to the Red Cross or the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. Closer to home, the needs and opportunities to give are easy to find.