Weekend events prep for chance of severe weather

Severe storms may be headed our way this weekend, just in time for big events like graduations and the NHRA Kansas Nationals.

Organizers are prepping now.

It’s a five hour drive from Ankeny, Iowa to Heartland Park and Loran Weiler has made the trip six years in a row for the NHRA Kansas Nationals.

“A couple years ago we saw the tornadoes that hit Joplin just go north of the track and we sat here right in this little location and watched it,” Weiler says.

He knows there’s always a chance for severe weather.

“If we hear the sirens, which we heard it happen in Joplin, we’d probably head up to the track and try to get in there,” Weiler adds.

He has a plan and so does track owner Raymond Irwin.

“We work with Shawnee County, of course Topeka police department, and of course emergency groups there, so yeah we have our plans in place when something like that happens we’re ready to go with that.”

The preps spread from the stands of the race track to those of the Kansas Expocentre, which 30,000 people will fill this weekend for graduations.

“We just got done with a training exercise about  two or three weeks ago with our entire staff regarding severe weather,” says General manager H.R. Cook.

Cook says they’ve been through precautionary evacuations before and are always ready.

“Our building is actually very safe during a tornado, they say it can withstand at least an F3 but people have the option of leaving and going to their cars if they wish,” Cook says.

NHRA drivers say once a plan is in place, the next step is to wait for the storm to pass.

“Just because there’s a 50 percent chance of bad weather, that means there’s a 50 percent chance there’s going to be good weather come out, be patient, we’ll get the cars down the race track,” says 2012 NHRA Funny Car World Champion, Jack Beckman.

The Shawnee County Emergency Response team is in constant communication with event officials when there’s a chance of severe weather. The team can’t force any event to evacuate or postpone, that’s up to the people in charge of each event.

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