Athens, Ga. – On Nov. 6, rain clouds gathered and dispersed above Athens as federal, local and University of Georgia representatives and students met to recognize the university’s newest achievement—a StormReady designation from the National Weather Service.
“It’s been a multiyear process where we as a university—along with community and campus partners—have sought to have the weather warning capability, the notification capability and the communications and response capabilities similar to a city of our size to be able to receive this designation,” said Steve Harris, director of the UGA Office of Emergency Preparedness.
With a population of around 45,000, UGA is the largest university in the state to receive the StormReady designation, an honor held by just over 150 university campuses nationwide—or 1 percent of the nearly 10,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S.
“This designation is not meaning that you’re stormproof,” said Kent Frantz, Georgia StormReady coordinator and service hydrologist for the National Weather Service. “That is not what it is intending. You are going to have storms. And it’s not just tornadoes, although that is a big part of it, but it’s everything—it’s lightning, heavy rain, flash flooding, the thunderstorms, the wind and now, as we get into winter weather, the ice and the snow that you potentially could have.
“It’s being prepared for all of that and receiving the warnings, watches and statements, knowing what they mean as you receive them, how to interpret them, and, more importantly, the decisions being made.”
At UGA, the designation comes with a student component as well. Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program, offered his students’ help—several of whom were in attendance—should the need arise. “Our students, we stand ready to assist however we can,” he said.
The journey toward being named StormReady has been a multiyear process for UGA. The designation means the university has the same or greater capabilities of severe weather monitoring, notification and response than would be expected of a city or county with a similar population size.
“UGA is unique in that it’s almost like a county within a county. You’re actually larger than a lot of counties,” Frantz said. “It’s fantastic to have you aboard as part of the StormReady family.”
For more information on the Office of Emergency Preparedness and preparing for emergencies on the UGA campus, see www.prepare.uga.edu.