tornado

Debris blocks the road in the coastal town of Manzanita, Ore., on Oct. 14, 2016, following a tornado .

PENDLETON — Umatilla County is ready to handle big, bad weather.

The county on Wednesday received the StormReady designation from the National Weather Service. Mike Vescio, the meteorologist-in-charge at the agency’s office in Pendleton, explained the program helps communities become more resilient during and after natural disasters.

County Emergency Manager Tom Roberts said he became interested in the program after visiting Manzanita, Ore., in the wake of the tornado that struck the coastal town on Oct. 14, 2016.

“It was quite an eye-opener because Manzanita hadn’t seen a tornado, either,” Roberts said.

To earn the Weather Service’s StormReady certification, a community must meet a number of criteria, from establishing a 24-hour emergency operations center to developing a plan to deal with hazardous weather to having at least two means to receive severe weather information and alert the public.

Roberts did plenty of work to meet the requirements, Vescio said, including the delivery of more than 30 weather radios to schools, city halls and the like.

Roberts said he racked up the miles on his car, but it was worth the effort. The radios help ensure the county and its partners can communicate during disasters.

The county will have to reapply in three years to stay StormReady. Roberts said he also intends to use the new designation when applying for state and federal grants for emergency equipment, including vehicles.

Umatilla County is one of 36 sites in Oregon that the Weather Service deemed storm ready or tsunami ready.

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