Breeding predicts few more flakes

As the harvest moon passes us by, we begin the annual preparations for cozy evenings spent before a roaring fire while snowdrifts pile up, outside. Those in the mood for snow may have a better than equal chance of seeing some of that fluffy stuff, this winter.

The National Weather Service predicts the area will see a higher than normal chance for precipitation and an equal chance for colder temperatures.

David Breeding, executive director of Claiborne Emergency Management/ Office of Homeland Security, says he thinks a few more snowflakes (the white stuff, not the people) than usual will descend upon the county.

Breeding sat down recently with the Claiborne Progress to talk weather-related topics. He detailed some of the events his office handled through 2018.

The year began with wildly fluctuating temperatures, dropping at one time to -3 degrees. Snow accumulations kept kids out of school. On Jan. 10, Claiborne county was basking in 65 degree temps.

“Then, we went from all this snow and ice in January and early February to a record high of 77 degrees on Feb. 20,” said Breeding.

Historically, the weather patterns have ‘played out’ along the same lines, since the 1930’s.

“Every four or five years, you’re going to get severe weather. Scientists try to explain it as global warming. I’m not disputing it – some of the glaciers are melting. But, it does seem that the types of weather-related emergencies we’re having are a lot worse than they used to be,” said Breeding.

Just this year alone, his office has issued 123 weather advisories, and counting.

He pointed to the Gatlinburg fires.

“That was really weather-related, because we were in a draught. We burned half of Claiborne county down, that same year. Then, the last couple of years, we’ve had excessive rainfall. We generally fall into a draught every three or four years,” said Breeding.

Breeding conducts several training sessions throughout the year.

“One of the things we dealt with this year, that we never had to in the past, was doing active shooter training for houses of worship. I feel it doesn’t have anything to do with gun control. If you look at some of those instances, people used axes and hammers and knives,” said Breeding.

Earlier this year, he conducted active shooter training for the employees of Commercial Bank.

“This was more along the lines of ‘you know what to do if there’s a bank robbery. But, do you know what to do if some employee is mad about something and comes in and starts shooting the place up,’” said Breeding.

The county experienced a couple earthquakes in April – one registering a 3.1 on the Richter scale. The quakes occurred less than three weeks apart from one another.

Residents sweated through higher than usual heat indexes during July.

“There were a couple of days where the heat index was well over 100 degrees. I do remember one day, the index was 105 degrees. When that happens, you have to plan for the need to open shelters for the elderly and those without fans or air conditioners,” said Breeding.

July also saw major damages from a downburst, he said. The county was kept busy repairing homes and removing downed trees, following this episode.

Breeding created contingencies in the event that electricity was interrupted during the August elections. His office also oversaw safety measures for the annual Labor Day events.

“Our rule of thumb is, for anything that’s going to have 2,000 or more people attending, we try to do a preplan for them,” said Breeding.

Turning to communication, he said his office has been working with Verizon Wireless to develop a private network for all emergency services.

“That’s still in the works. When it comes into play, all the emergency service numbers will be stored in the database. In the event of anything that taxes the resources, we can rely on that private network to communicate, as long as their towers are up,” said Breeding.

He was asked how long it would take the county to be ‘back on grid,’ after a major disaster.

“If we had the F5 tornado come through here, or the severe earthquake like Alaska, FEMA tells you to plan for at least 72 hours. But, if you think about it, Florida and North Carolina are still in recovery. Considering the last ones I’ve been involved with – I’d say six months to recover,” said Breeding.

He praised the services the county receives from Powell Valley Electric Cooperative.

“We’re one of the few counties that have very rare power outages. I think that’s contributed to what they’ve been doing with the electric grids and the clear-cutting of the electric lines. If you notice in a lot of other places, they can get a little wind and you’ve suddenly got 500,000 people without power,” said Breeding.

He also commended the work of the Claiborne Utilities District for keeping water lines flowing and natural gas online.

During the year, Breeding responded to 33 calls concerning hazardous materials, five involving explosive incidents and one call of a biological nature.

The Claiborne Emergency Management/Office of Homeland Security received a much-coveted $500,000 grant that is to be used in training to determine gaps in handling terrorist attacks.