August 29, 2006 - Posted at 5:28 p.m. CDT
CARUTHERSVILLE, MO -- On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the director of the National Weather Service wasn't in New Orleans or in Southern Mississippi. He was in Region 8.
Brigadier General David L. Johnson was in Pemiscot County to honor a hero who saved lives in Caruthersville on April 2nd. A number of heroes emerged following the string of tornados that roared through Region 8 that day and on Tuesday one of the men who saved thousands of lives by giving his community warning was honored with a prestigious award.
"He's receiving the StormReady Community Hero Award," said Johnson, "There have only been three other awards issued to individuals. It goes directly to saving peoples lives and that is exactly what Chief Jones did."
Caruthersville Fire Chief Charlie Jones and his town were prepared for the April 2nd event because they were one of the communities who were certified through the National Weather Service program to be StormReady. So when the warnings started to come in Chief Jones sprung into action.
"We were receiving reports of hail and with how dark the cloud was we knew the storm wasn't going to miss Caruthersville," said Jones.
Officials say Chief Jones went above and beyond the call of duty. Instead of simply sounding tornado sirens, he sounded them multiple times. He also jumped on the fire communication c-b frequency and advised residents to take cover immediately.
"I had many, many residents to tell me this and they did take shelter. Others said they heard the sirens so long they went outside to see why and once they saw the tornado, they went inside and took shelter," said Jones.
While Chief Jones actions helped to save lives, he wasn't the only hero on that fateful day.
"The fact that we had zero deaths and minimal injuries is directly result to the good efforts of the chief, the first responders and the leadership in the community and the fact that they are StormReady," said Johnson.
Caruthersville is one of just a handful of Region 8 towns that are certified StormReady. To be recognized as StormReady, a community must:
-Establish a 24 hour warning point and emergency operations center.
-Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public.
-Create a system that monitors local weather conditions.
-Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars.