Surviving The Storm - A WGEM News in-depth report - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Surviving The Storm - A WGEM News in-depth report

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Tomorrow marks ten years since a tornado outbreak blasted through the Tri-States, wiping out homes and local landmarks.

A lot has changed since those twisters on May 10, 2003.

Technology allows WGEM meteorologists to broadcast more specific warnings, faster than ever before. But even with the better warning system, you must have a plan to protect your family.

It was nearly a decade ago when two tornados took aim right at the Tri-States.

Mary Fairchild and three other family members were celebrating Mother's Day when the storm hit. They tried to get into the outdoor basement of the Federated Church of Lima, but couldn't get the door open.

They ended up hanging on to the basement door, as the tornado flung them all around the air.

"I realized I better start praying and I better start praying out loud," Fairchild said.

Mary's husband, Ralph, ushered the rest of the family to the restroom.

"I thought that is the last time I will see my family," Mary said. "My second thought was I'm going to die."

The storm hit hard all around the area, causing mass destruction as the tornado ripped through.

At Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri, where graduation was underway, the iconic campus dome was ripped off. Homes were destroyed, trees were downed and the church in Lima was so badly damaged that it had to be torn down. But, the Fairchild family survived.

The Fairchilds was caught off guard 10 years ago, but that's less likely to happen today. Technology advances over the past decade allow WGEM StormTrak meteorologists to issue storm warnings more accurately than ever before.

Our team works closely with Jim Kramper, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the St. Louis National Weather Service office.

And, the WGEM StormTrak Weather Center now has dual-pol radar, giving us a whole new look at storm debris clouds.

But, the warnings are only good if your family has a plan during severe weather. First, make sure you can get the warning, even away from the TV or radio.

You can take advantage of WGEM's free StormTrak Mobile weather app and mobile text alerts. It's also a good idea to buy a weather radio.

(Click here to sign up for WGEM Mobile Text Alerts.)

(Learn more about the WGEM StormTrak Mobile Weather App.)

Then, make sure your family knows your safe place at home, at work and while traveling.

But what if you don't have a basement? (Click here for tips to help build a severe weather safety plan.)

"We were just all thankful to be alive," Margaret Leeper, who experienced the tornadoes, said.

The Tri-States was fortunate to have no loss of life during that superstorm. But, as the Fairchild family knows, it could have been a lot worse.

"After going through a tornado, I take it very seriously," Leeper said. "I have a great respect for the weather now."

Everyone needs to respect the threat of severe weather. 

The biggest mistake people make during times of severe weather is not taking action once the warning is issued.

"It's taking really big signals to convince people that something is going on out there," Kramper said. "So now we have to work on how can we perhaps word our warnings, what kind of message do we need to get out to tell people, this is really dangerous, you need to do something now instead of waiting for 10 to 20 minutes when it's right outside their window. That's the challenge we face right now"

We told you earlier this spring about the so called 'Impact Based Warnings' the National Weather Service implemented which means you'll know just how that warning will affect you, from minor damage from hail up to life threatening immediate danger. When you hear those words, you need to take action sooner than later.

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