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Fall, winter weather can mean severe thunderstorms, flooding, tornadoes
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Today’s meteorologists are relying on tacos and cupcakes to help take a bite out of ignorance when it comes to weather watches and warnings and people’s understanding of them.

Holding up an illustration of a “taco watch,” Cam Hopman of WEVV-TV in Evansville explained how a taco’s ingredients, i.e., its meat, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce, are just individual parts until they are assembled, and it’s much the same for weather.

“Essentially you have the ingredients for a tornado or a severe thunderstorm to occur,” said Hopman while speaking at a Facebook Live Event that focused on fall and winter weather.

The virtual event on Sept. 27 was hosted by the National Weather Service office in Paducah; it kicked off Fall Severe Weather Safety and Preparedness Week, which just ended.

Hopman joined Todd County Emergency Management Director Daniel Smith, Keith Todd, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s District 1 and NWS Acting Warning Coordination Meteorologist Christine Wielgos to discuss the impact of severe weather on communities.

“You’re making me hungry, but that’s okay,” quipped Wielgos of Hopman’s use of food analogies to clarify the differences between a weather watch, i.e., having all the elements available for an event to occur, and a warning, when a threat of severe weather is imminent and people should seek shelter.

The meteorologist, who’d heard of a similar teaching tool called a cupcake watch, explained that watches are meant to give people time to alter their plans while “the warning is your time to take action,” she said during the recent live event.

Wielgos and the other presenters touched on, not only tornadoes, but on flash floods and severe thunderstorms that can wreak havoc in local communities, for example.

Discussions also included the importance of getting the information out to people, whether through warning sirens, phone apps, local broadcasts or weather radios.

Additionally, the presenters talked about measures people can take to ensure their own safety during severe weather.

Wielgos, who led the Facebook Live Event, pointed to the number of deaths from weather events in the past 25 years.

The Paducah office serves 58 counties in southern Illinois, southeast Missouri, southwest Indiana and western Kentucky, and Wielgos noted that there have been 57 fatalities caused by tornadoes in the past 25 years in the region her office serves.

Forty-nine of those deaths occurred at night.

Additionally, another 46 people have died from flash floods in that same quarter-century in the region, according to Wielgos.

“Unfortunately, our region is particularly vulnerable to severe weather, especially as we head into the fall months,” she said.

Wielgos noted that the month of April has seen 136 tornadoes since 1995, with 153 in May in those same years.

Incidents go down in the summer and ramp back up in the fall; September through the years has seen 19 tornadoes.

There have been 61 in October and 19 in November.

But tornadoes aren’t the only thing that can produce damage.

Severe thunderstorms, defined by the weather service as having hail of at least one inch in diameter and wind gusts of 60 miles per hour or greater, can produce a lot of damage.

Wielgos urges people to dust off their weather radios and put new batteries in them; she said it’s important for them to think about how they can be more informed about weather events.

Don’t go to bed without knowing what the weather forecast is, and don’t rely on a warning siren to awaken you. According to Smith, they are intended for people who are outdoors.

Weather reports are available from a variety of sources, i.e., your local meterologist, emergency management agencies, the National Weather Service or from your own phone.

Cell phones now have wireless emergency alerts, notes Wielgos, who says threats of severe weather will decrease in December and increase again in the early part of the year.

Quoting a colleague, she urges people to plan their day around the weather. Hopman notes that people need to listen to weather reports and spread the word about what they hear.

“The more you spread the word, the more you listen,” he observed during last week’s Facebook Live Event. “The more lives are going to be saved.”

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

German students experiencing football and friendship at local school
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Trigg County’s game against Fulton County was exactly like it seems in the movies.

“It was awesome!” says Svenja Guenther, an exchange student from Germany who is a junior at Trigg County High School this year.

Attending the game on Sept. 24, Guenther got to see Trigg County defeat its opponent.

The game was a first for the young girl, although she’d seen the American sport depicted on film and had expectations of what she thought it would be like.

She was not disappointed.

A resident of Buren in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Guenther is one of two students from the country visiting in Trigg County this year. The other is Jessica Schneider, who is staying with a host family in Dawson Springs while studying at the local high school.

The two girls are the only exchange students at Trigg County High School for the 2021-2022 academic year, although there have been numerous students from various countries through the years.

High school Principal Tim Bush said there are typically anywhere from two to five visiting youth at the school in a given year.

Last year saw none, because of COVID-19.

“We absolutely love it,” the principal noted of his school’s involvement in exchange programs. “Our school district has been welcoming exchange students for a long time.”

Bush said the exchange youth bring a lot to the table for their local counterparts, and they experience growth as well while they’re here.

“When you’re sitting beside that person in class, that’s a real-life connection,” he observes, noting that the youth usually learn they share the same likes and challenges.

He adds that his school welcomes the culture that exchange students bring, and as a school leader, he welcomes the youth.

The situation is almost always a positive one, Bush says, and it becomes “a lifelong thing,” he notes of the relationships that develop.

Two years ago, Bush and his family hosted a young girl from Italy, and she instantly became a part of the family, the principal said.

Now he and his wife are planning a trip to Italy. Going to the country is on their list “of things that will happen,” according to Bush.

The principal said both Guenther and Schneider came to the U.S. this year through the efforts of EF, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that brings students ages 15-18 into the country to spend either a semester or year with an American host family.

The school also works with one other exchange program that brings students to the community, and Bush said both programs seek out families to serve as hosts for visiting youth.

He said the exchange programs are safe, and he encourages others to be willing to serve as hosts for the visiting students.

Bush notes that the students want to immerse themselves in American culture, while local youth want to get to know the visitors.

Exchange students have a pretty large circle of friends and are almost always involved in things. They get to know their host families, and if there are children in those families, they get to know the children’s friends as well.

“The impact reaches out pretty far,” observes Bush of the effect the exchange students have in the local community.

Amanda Conrad, who with husband Evan is hosting Guenther this year, said becoming hosts for the youth sounded interesting, and the couple were intrigued with the idea of having an opportunity to learn about other countries.

“As we love to travel ourselves, we figured what better way to get to know more about the locations we hoped to visit in the future,” she said of the decision to become host parents.

Conrad said host parents are simply that, parents who support, defend and solve problems just as if the children are their own.

She notes that host parents come in all shapes and sizes, from retirees and single parents to same-sex couples, couples with kids (or not) and rural or urban families.

They need only to provide a bedroom (which can be shared with a host sibling), three meals a day and safe transportation to and from school for their exchange students.

In addition to being a host parent, Conrad also serves as coordinator for the western Kentucky area for EF, which seeks host families for the students who come from 13 other countries to study in the U.S.

She notes that she and her husband first became interested in becoming host parents after meeting some friends to go kayaking.

The friends brought their exchange students along on that trip, and Amanda and Evan thought they’d try being hosts at least once.

The couple hosted their first exchange student two years ago, in 2019-2020.

Conrad said she wants Svenja and Jessica to enjoy their year in the local community and get all the experience out of it that they can.

“(I want them to) try new things, meet new people, share their culture,” she said. “(I want them to) create a bond with their host family that lasts, try new foods, go to that Friday night football game, prom, movie, hang out with their friends after school. . . “

For 15-year-old Svenja, it’s an experience that she wants to remember always.

From football to her first rodeo and the friendliness of the people, she wants to “take every single memory with me,” Svenja said.

Coming to America and seeing what it’s like has been her dream since she was 6 years old.

Dream fulfilled.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

Cat dies after harrowing journey
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Jessie was a regal lady, the color of a Russian Blue but with some Maine Coon in her.

She had some “great big” long whiskers.

“She was just a beautiful cat,” said Wendell Hodge of the kitten his wife Cindy brought home four years ago when someone dropped her off at Sinking Fork Elementary School in Hopkinsville where Cindy had been a teacher.

Jessie died on Aug. 12, almost two months after she escaped from the couple’s camper as they were preparing to leave on vacation.

Severely dehydrated and malnourished, she had lost more than seven pounds during the weeks that she had been gone from home.

A trip to the vet brought hope.

Jesse gained a pound, was eating and sitting up. But she suffered a stroke, and Wendell and Cindy made the decision to put her down.

“When I pulled back her blanket and saw how hard her little body was struggling to breathe, enough was enough!” Wendell Hodge recalled of those last moments with her.

A resident of Trigg County, Wendell has gone on to put pen to paper and record his treasured pet’s last weeks, hoping “Jessie’s Story” will help other pet owners so they don’t lose their pets in a similar manner.

“Please, I beg of you, if you see an animal that needs help or looks lost, please help it out,” Wendell Hodge writes in his ode to Jessie.

“Take it to the vet, call animal control, call someone, call your neighbor,” he continues. “Please don’t just let it suffer. Please do something. Please don’t do nothing.”

Hodge had posted signs about the couple’s lost cat, and he’d contacted animal control.

But few called about Jessie, he said.

He says it’s important that people do something if they see an animal in need.

Animal control in Trigg County can be reached by calling 270-522-8888, and Hodge urges people to call to let someone know they’ve seen an animal in distress.

Trigg County Judge-Executive Hollis Alexander says some indicators residents can look for when considering a call to animal control are whether the animal looks like it’s starving or if it’s been dumped in the area.

If an animal has stayed in the same place for two or three days, it may be a stray, he said.

Alexander cautioned that there’s no leash law in the county, and not every animal seen walking about the community may be a stray.

There is a leash law for dogs in the city.

“I’m not trying to discourage people from calling in, but I’m trying to discourage people from over-calling animal control,” said the judge, who notes that people should look for signs that the animal has not been properly cared for or is a stray when they do call.

Alexander also noted that if a resident is in doubt and has a concern about an animal then he or she should call animal control and let the local officer determine the animal’s needs.

In Trigg County, Aubrey Lasseter is the current animal control officer.

The judge-executive said an animal that is picked up by Lasseter will be taken to the Christian County Animal Shelter in Hopkinsville if it has no indicators like a collar or name tag.

The Hopkinsville facility serves Trigg County.

Alexander said the shelter may have a time limit for keeping the animal and may euthanize it if no one comes to claim the animal.

He urged that the main thing is for residents to keep a close eye out for their pets.

Hodge hopes his story about Jessie will also inspire neighbors to watch out for each other’s pets. If you see a cat or any animal in need, do something to help the animal, he says.

“It has ripped our hearts out of our chests, and it hurts so bad,” Hodge wrote of the loss of his family’s pet. “You can’t imagine how many tears have been shed for Jessie.”

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

Students are named Green scholars
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Caden Burcham, Connor Wallace and Benjamin Adcock have been named Senator Jeff Green Scholars by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, a public corporation and government agency which helps students gain access to higher education through scholarships and other means.

Burcham and Wallace are 2021 graduates of Trigg County High School while Adcock graduated last year from Heritage Christian Academy in Hopkinsville.

To be named Senator Jeff Green Scholars, they had to achieve a 4.0 grade point average each year of high school and score at least a 28 composite on the ACT.

The Jeff Green award is named in honor of the late State Sen. Jeff Green of Mayfield, who served in the Kentucky General Assembly from 1992 to 1997.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear congratulated the students, noting that his administration will always put education first and was proud to recognize the students for their hard work in the classroom during their high school years.

“This is especially true for the 2021 graduates, who earned this honor while spending much of their last two years of high school under new and often challenging learning conditions because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said of the students’ efforts i the classroom.

The three youth have also earned Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) awards which they can use to continue their education beyond high school. They are eligible for $2,500 per year in KEES funds for up to four years of postsecondary education, officials said in a press release.

KEES and other Kentucky student aid programs are administered by KHEAA. KEES awards are funded by net Kentucky lottery proceeds and may be used at most colleges and universities in Kentucky.

In some cases, the award may be used at an out-of-state school if the major the student is pursuing is unavailable in Kentucky. No application is necessary for KEES awards.

For more information about Kentucky scholarships and grants, visit kheaa.com; write KHEAA, P.O. Box 798, Frankfort, KY 40602; or call 800-928-8926, ext. 6-7214.

KHEAA also disburses low-cost Advantage Education Loans, the state’s only nonprofit private education loan. For more information, visit advantageeducationloan.com.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.