Local Leaders, Emergency Responders Take Part in DFW's Largest-Ever Severe Weather Exercise

The start of spring also marks the beginning of severe weather season in Texas.

To make sure they're prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws their way, cities across the Metroplex took part in the region's largest-ever severe weather exercise Thursday.

"Failing to plan is planning to fail," said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who is responsible for the county's emergency preparedness. "We do these practices so that we're ready for the real thing."

The exercise brought together leaders, emergency responders, and representatives from mutiple local, state, and federal agencies -- as well as medical professionals and disaster relief organizations.

They were presented with a scenario where a powerful EF4 tornado ripped through the heart of Downtown Dallas, leaving nearly a dozen people dead, hundreds of people injured, and still more people trapped and stranded within the area.

"When you have something of this nature occur, it's very difficult to say that you're going to have enough people [to respond]," said Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown, who also participated in the exercise. "We can always use more resources. And so that's what's going to be the challenge for us in a setting like this."

Although tornadoes more frequently strike the rural areas around DFW, Jenkins said the exercise scenario was not unrealistic -- pointing to both the tornado that hit Downtown Fort Worth back in 2000, as well as the more recent EF4 tornado in 2015 that leveled homes in the Garland/Rowlett area and killed several people.

He and others also pointed out that the growth in North Texas continues to push out into those rural areas -- and the region is getting more densely populated each year.

"Our urban footprint just keeps expanding," said Tom Bradshaw, Meterologist-in-Charge of the National Weather Service office in Dallas/Fort Worth. "There is a lot of real estate that weather can potentially impact from year to year."

Brown noted that exercises like Thursday's force them to "think outside the box" so they're not caught off guard by any situation and have a plan in place to effectively respond to disasters.

Officials in Tarrant and Denton counties also took part in the exercise.

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