Rusk County emergency managers, storm spotters prepare for severe weather

Rusk County emergency managers, storm spotters prepare for severe weather
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 6:16 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:50 PM CST
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HENDERSON, Texas (KLTV) - Inside the Rusk County Office of Emergency Management, it was truly the calm before the storm on Wednesday. They spent the day looking at the latest forecast, preparing radio equipment, and briefing authorities ahead of Thursday’s severe weather threat.

“We’re just here to make sure the city is as prepared as we can be,” said Lt. Brian Bathke with the Henderson Police Department. “Shortly after this, we’ll have a meeting and I’ll make sure to update all the city directors and leaders.”

When the storms roll in, the OEM’s Michael Searcy will be on the road tracking storms.

“I try to position in the area where we know there’s going to be some impacts,” he said.

Searcy will have his eyes to the sky and will report what he sees back to the National Weather Service in Shreveport, which issues storm warnings.

“What the radar sees at 10,000 feet versus what we see on the ground is two totally different things,” said emergency manager Patrick Dooley. “Basically, what it (storm spotting) does is just quantify the data that the radar is sending them and we’re saying, ‘yes, what you’re seeing on the radar is exactly what we’re seeing here on the ground.’”

Searcy will not be alone when it comes to watching the skies in Rusk County. The Rusk County Office of Emergency Management also depends on a team of about 25 amateur radio operators who are also trained storm spotters, plus dozens of SkyWarn certified first responders.

“Many of those are volunteer firefighters. They work for law enforcement. And there’s always been a really good interest whenever the National Weather Service comes to Henderson and we always have a packed house of folks who are wanting to learn more about weather, not only for themselves, but to be able to be a part of those networks of groups of people who can report that information in and help keep others safe,” said David Chenault, Public Information Officer for the Rusk County OEM.