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Officials gather in Norman to discuss 2011 weather disasters

Meteorologists and officials from across the country gathered Tuesday at the National Weather Center in Norman for the first Weather-Ready Nation workshop, discussing weather events and natural disasters in 2011.
BY TIFFANY GIBSON tgibson@opubco.com Published: December 14, 2011

— The amount of natural disasters and extreme weather events in 2011 has been quite trying for Oklahoma and the rest of the U.S.

This year, there have been 12 separate national weather events that caused $52 billion in economic losses, according to the National Weather Service.

Data also shows that 552 people have been killed in tornadoes so far this year.

“It was certainly a historic tornado year,” said Russell Schneider, director of NOAA National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

In order to prepare for future disasters, officials from across the country are gathering in Norman this week at the National Weather Center for the first Weather-Ready Nation workshop. During the sessions, participants will look at 2011 disasters and discuss ideas on how to improve the public's awareness and preparedness.

The conference continues through Thursday.

“We're trying to begin a national conversation on creating a more weather-ready nation,” Schneider said. “By that, we mean not just improving our tornado warnings, watches or forecast, but translating that information into more effective community action to save people's lives and to help us recover more quickly from disasters that may be in our future.”

In Oklahoma alone this year, residents have dealt with excessive heat, deadly tornadoes and a 5.6-magnitude earthquake — the largest quake ever recorded in the state.

Gov. Mary Fallin attended the workshop Tuesday morning to discuss another Oklahoma weather incident she had to deal with before her inauguration — a winter storm. She said she underwent training for severe weather situations and was able to work with officials to help residents who were stranded on highways.

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