Saturday's weather forecast sounds like the script of a disaster movie: damaging winds, floods, thunderstorms, hail, and possible tornado activity are predicted Saturday for East Texas.
“I've heard there's a possibility of a tornado outbreak,” Mark Cotton, storm-chaser and administrator of the East Texas Weather Watchers Facebook page, told the Herald-Press Friday. “If there are five or more tornadoes in an area within a specific amount of time, they consider that a tornado outbreak.”
Last weekend, Palestine suffered thunderstorms and higher-than-normal winds. Neighboring Grapeland, however, received hail the size of softballs. Falling ice chunks damaged property, injuring many residents.
Cotton said this Saturday's storm could make last weekend look like a spring shower.
“The TORCON, a tornado condition gauge used by the Weather Channel, put our area at a level-three last week,” Cotton said. “As of today, we're at a seven going into this weekend. That's unheard of.”
The TORCON gauge, developed by Dr. Greg Forbes, measures the likelihood of tornado activity within 50 miles of a location. The assigned number is multiplied by ten to determine the percentage of tornado possibility; for instance, a TORCON of seven means a 70 percent chance of a tornado within 50 miles.
Palestine Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Phillips told the Herald-Press he relies on reports forwarded to him by the State Operations Center.
The SOC report, Phillips said, is not as grim as what TORCON predicts. Residents, however, should nonetheless prepare for any conditions.
“They're predicting thunderstorms, hail, and some possible flooding,” he said. “It will basically be a lot like last weekend. People should stay informed, as that can quickly change.”
Phillips said residents should stay tuned to their radio, television, or online weather stations for up-to-date forecasts. Flashlights, candles, potable water, and non-perishable foods should be kept in household emergency kits, he said.
“Residents should also sign up for the city's Code Red notification system,” Phillips said.
Code Red is a citywide warning system that calls residents in an emergency. Residents can sign up on the city's website.
“If the conditions worsen, a Code Red call will go out,” Phillips said. “The report will tell residents if they need to go to the nearest shelter, and where that shelter is.”
Anderson County Emergency Management Coordinator Christina Crockett said residents should always prepare for the worst.
“Remember your neighbors, and those in your community,” she said. “Check on them to make sure they are safe. Also, remember to take care of pets and livestock.
“Always have a plan.”