By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
The weather defenses of two Kentucky State Parks in the Tri-County have been strengthened after they earned the StormReady Supporter designation from the National Weather Service.
The Weather Service office in Jackson announced Tuesday that Cumberland Falls State Resort Park near Corbin and Levi Jackson State Park near London both received the designation.
“It’s absolutely a great thing. It puts a lot of employees at ease, so we can better take care of our guests. We were taught various safety procedures, as well as how to read the clouds which they call ‘storm monitoring.’ New signs have been put up on where people can go in the case there are storms threatening, and the park is secure for severe weather,” said Pam Gibson, trail management supervisor at Cumberland Falls.
Levi Jackson Park Manager Ben Sizemore said, “I feel it’s a great thing for our park. We hold the safety of our visitors and our employees at the park first and foremost, and by being StormReady, we’ll ensure that those safety procedures are followed.”
For the two parks to become StormReady, officials with the State Parks and the Weather Service developed a severe weather safety plan that is specifically tailored to the individual park. Personnel at the parks are educated about weather hazards they might face, and how to respond to them in the event of an actual weather emergency. As part of the plan, storm shelters are identified and procedures implemented, which allow severe weather alerts and information to be passed along to park patrons and park staff in a timely manner.
“In the case of Levi Jackson, they have more campgrounds and some shelters, and they’re close to London. On the other hand, Cumberland Falls is a resort park with a lodge, cottages, conference buildings and lots of woodland, and they’re farther away from Corbin and Williamsburg. No two parks are alike, and when we evaluated Cumberland Falls and Levi Jackson, we specifically evaluated what they can do for the safety of their visitors and staff,” State Parks spokesperson Gil Lawson said.
Tony Edwards, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Jackson Weather Service office, added, “The people who visit our state parks are at a greater risk because they’re away from home and they may be in unfamiliar territory. With the state park staff trained and more aware of what to do during severe weather, they can educate their guests on what to do if there is a weather emergency.”
Cumberland Falls and Levi Jackson were two of seven Kentucky State Parks that recently got the designation. The other five were Pine Mountain State Resort Park near Pineville, Paintsville Lake State Park in Johnson County, Carr Creek State Park in Knott County, Kingdom Come State Park in Letcher County, and General Burnside State Park near Somerset.
Currently, there are 15 Kentucky State Parks that are designated StormReady — a program started in Tulsa, Okla. in 1999, which helps communities across the nation with communication and safety skills needed to save lives and property before and during severe weather events.
The first state park in America to earn the StormReady Supporter designation was Lake Cumberland State Resort Park near Jamestown back in April 2010.