Preparing for severe weather in Weld County, Colorado

As winter transitions into spring, it’s crucial for Weld County residents to prepare for upcoming severe weather. Last week was a healthy reminder of that fact as a major spring snowstorm dumped over a foot of snow across the county leaving motorists stranded and many residents without power for hours (some for days).

In fact, Weld County’s proximity to the mountains, its topography and its elevation often create a severe-weather incubator when it comes to the big four weather dangers of spring and summer: thunderstorms, lightning, hail and tornadoes.

A quick Google search on Weld County weather paints a pretty impressive and dangerous picture:

For Weld County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Kris Haffner, severe weather is nothing new. Growing up southeast of Hudson, he’s seen more than his share of impressive storms. In fact, when it comes to weather spotting, Haffner (and our other Deputies and Public Works crews) are often the first line of defense. In a county almost 4,000 square miles in size, it’s important to have boots on the ground and eyes on the sky.

Last May, Haffner, who was in Keenesburg, noticed storm clouds forming to the north. “I radioed one of my deputies and asked him to head that way,” Haffner explained, noting he coordinates with his deputies to strategically scatter to locations where the skies are looking ominous. “Sure enough, a landspout formed out there.”

The landspout Haffner was referring to was actually a pair of landspouts in the Eaton area, one of which took the roof off of a barn. (Learn more about this event; watch our video of the event here.)

When Haffner, his fellow deputies, or Public Works crews see severe weather rolling in, a chain of events happens to make sure the public is aware of the impending weather-situation. First, the personnel in the field notify the Weld County Regional Communications Center – dispatch. From there, dispatchers notify the Weld County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which in turn, informs or confirms the information with the National Weather Service (NWS).

Once the NWS sends out a severe weather warning via weather radios and media outlets, a separate alert is sent out via CodeRED, Weld County’s Emergency Notification System, if the user has signed up for CodeRED weather alerts. When a resident is signed up with the county’s CodeRED program, they receive alerts via phone, text or email when an emergency is occurring in their area.

Much like the storms produced in spring, preparing for severe weather can seem daunting. But Weld County Government has many tools available to help residents stay ready. OEM’s Preparedness Guide provides tips on how to prepare the entire family – including pets and livestock – for severe weather. It even gives information on what to do before, during and after the event.

Another great set of resources is Weld County Government’s social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter), where severe weather conditions and road closure information is updated frequently during a storm. The most important tool OEM strongly suggests residents have at the ready, however, is a weather radio. These radios can be purchased at many retail and online stores and enable residents to hear the NWS warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Want to take preparedness to another level? Consider participating in a class to become a certified weather spotter by taking a Severe Weather Spotter Training offered by OEM. Since 2013, almost 500 people have taken the training in Weld County. By learning about severe weather and how to recognize severe weather patterns early, residents can protect themselves, their families and provide updates to the NWS.

Regardless of the tools, however, high-tech apps or good old-fashioned eye-witness accounts, preparation is always the key to successfully navigating severe weather challenges.

“Talk to your family now about what to do during severe weather – where is the safest place in your house? What if you’re caught outside? Making sure you’ve thought about and discussed with family what actions to take during severe weather is important,” said Roy Rudisill, OEM Director. “The most important thing to remember is this: the time to prepare for an emergency is not during the emergency.”

By Shaley Dehner, Weld County Communications Specialist.
Photo courtesy of Charles Vetter, Weld County Geographic Information Systems Analyst

This year’s virtual Severe Weather Spotter Training is on April 14 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Register for the training here. 

Sign up for emergency alerts, including weather alerts, via CodeRED by registering here. 

Download the Weld County Emergency Preparedness Guide and learn how to prepare for several types of emergency scenarios.  
To learn more about the Weld County Office of Emergency Management, please click here

By Tucker Allmer - The BARN

Tucker Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.