(L - R) WFO Memphis MIC Jim Belles, Shelby Co. Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr., Shelby Co. Preparedness Dir. Bob Nations and NWS Southern Region Dir. Bill Proenza (Photo: WFO Memphis)
(Feb.10, 2011) - The Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Operations Center team was honored with a National Weather Service StormReady® Community Hero Award for its life saving actions during the historic Lower Mississippi River Flood of 2011. Bill Proenza, regional director of the National Weather Service Southern Region presented StormReady Hero certificates to team members, Feb. 9, at the center.
This is only the fifth time this prestigious award has been presented since StormReady Hero recognitions were initiated in 2002. It also marks the first time the award was presented for actions taken during a major flood event.
"Last May, nearly one and a half million residents of Memphis and Shelby County faced the worst river flood event since the great flood of 1937," said Proenza. "Despite the extreme danger from the flood, not one life was lost thanks to the heroic efforts, skills and experience of the emergency operations staff. These specialists turned a situation where citizens could have been gripped with fear into one where they were empowered with knowledge."
On May 9, the Mississippi River at Memphis crested at 48.03 feet, more than 14 feet above flood stage. Tributary rivers also backed up flooding more than 2,800 homes, closing key roads and forcing hundreds of residents to seek community shelters.
The long-lived flooding event lasted several weeks, during which the staff consistently acted in a timely and decisive manner. Some of the life-saving actions included:
- Providing flood inundation maps showing impacted areas for emergency responders and citizens
- Providing flood inundation maps with projected impact areas based on probable river stage increases
- Hosted twice daily news conferences to inform the media and citizens about the latest river flood impacts
- Established a call center with telephone, text messaging and e-mail capabilities
- Had law enforcement officers go "door to door" to inform citizens in the inundation zones that their homes or businesses would be flooded
- Empowered a faith-based organization to establish community shelters
- Empowered the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to establish pet shelters
Memphis and Shelby County were recognized as StormReady communities in February of 2010. They are among 68 StormReady designations across the state and more than 1,800 nationwide. The StormReady program is part of the National Weather Service's working partnership with the International Association of Emergency Managers and the National Emergency Management Association. The primary goal is to save lives and property through effective communication and response to National Weather Service warning information.