Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

February 20, 2014

StormReady

Kentucky is first state to earn designation at its state parks

ASHLAND — When a violent storm occurs in Kentucky, a state park may be one of the safest places you can be. That’s because Kentucky is the first state in the nation to have all of its 34 state parks with overnight accommodations designated as “StormReady” by the National Weather.

In this corner of Kentucky, those parks include Carter Caves, Greenbo Lake, Jenny Wiley and Natural Bridge, as they all have lodges.

“It’s comforting to know that our Kentucky state parks are prepared for hazardous weather conditions. We want to keep our guests, neighbors and our park employees as safe as possible,” Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said at a recent ceremony for the designation in the Capitol.

“We appreciate the cooperation of the National Weather Service offices that serve Kentucky as well as the other emergency management agencies who worked with us to achieve this goal,” Kentucky Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker said, adding the safety of guests is of major importance to the parks system.

Walker said no additional dollars from the state budget were needed to reach the goal.

Joe Sullivan, warning coordinator meteorologist for the NWS in Louisville, said “StormReady” means the designated parks have appropriate communications equipment and safe places for people to go when bad weather is on the way. He also said parks personnel have completed training to prepare for storms.

Three other states have “StormReady” parks: Indiana has one, Iowa one and Michigan nine.

In achieving the designation, the Kentucky parks also planned and coordinated their efforts with local emergency management agencies to make sure people are safe before and after severe weather occurs.

Being  “StormReady” is not likely to be a major factor in deciding to spend time in a state park, but should a tornado or other damaging storms occur while at a park, the preparedness of park employees to handle the situation and make sure guests are in the safest places possible certainly will be appreciated. The National Weather Service would like to have parks in all states designed as “StormReady.” The fact that Kentucky is the first state to have all of its parks with overnight accommodations be so designated is a tribute to the commitment the state parks have to safety.

The designation does not mean natural disasters will not occur at state parks, but when they do, it does mean park employees are trained to  know just what to do to protect visitors.

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