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How Do You Prepare for an Ozarks Winter?

Longtime residents of the Ozarks are aware of the constant weather changes that happen here. For example, 100 years ago this month, Missouri had a strange weather phenomenon called “The Great Blue Norther,” during which temperatures fell wildly.  As winter approaches, the National Weather Service wants Missourians to be prepared for anything. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports on the upcoming Winter Weather Awareness Day, which is Wednesday.


Over the last year, Missourians have experienced many types of dangerous storms. Now, the threat of severe winter weather has caused the National Weather Service, the Missouri Department of Public Safety and other local emergency managers to join forces to promote winter weather safety. Doug Cramer is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He says that winter weather includes not only ice storms and blizzards, but also heavy thunderstorms with tornados.

“The National Weather Service recommends people to actually follow forecasts very closely, and then prepare for that. If it appears as though it’s going to be a major winter storm, then we recommend folks to go ahead and stock up on food essentials.”   

He says it’s smart to avoid driving in the storm if you can and that families should keep a generator on hand. 

Cramer says it’s important to know the different terms meteorologists use when they are giving a winter weather forecast.

“A Watch means that the National Weather Service is expecting a winter storm to potentially impact the region within the next 2-3 days. A Warning is a little bit more imminent—we’re more confident with our forecasts in understanding that a winter storm will impact the region.”

Cramer says everyone should create a plan so that they know what to do during hazardous conditions.

Unstable weather is not uncommon to this region. One story, highlighted by its 100th birthday, reminds Missourians of a weather phenomenon that, for some, cost them their lives.

Known as “The Great Blue Norther” by meteorologists, November 11, 1911 is the only time in Missouri history where the record high and the record low occurred on the same day. 

Patrick Market is an atmospheric scientist at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

“Well, really the Great Blue Norther of 1911 was just a cold front; it was just a really strong one.”

Market says that with the front came tornados all over the Midwest, as well as other natural disasters.

“One of the best examples is probably Tipton, Missouri. There was what we would call wind-driven hail on that day, so the wind was very strong, and lots of hail stones typically the size of walnuts. Most of the west-facing windows in houses and businesses were smashed out that afternoon.”

Market says there are a number of stories of people dying in that winter storm due to exposure.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.