Spring Valley, MN

Community Visited: 3/9/09
Community Recognized: 3/20/09
Community Ceremony: 5/11/09


On Monday March 9, 2009, a site verification visit was made to Spring Valley, MN, a community applying to become 'StormReady' for NWS La Crosse

Verification team members included:

  • Jon Turk, Rochester Police Dept.
  • Todd Shea, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS La Crosse

Community Information

Spring Valley, MN is in western Fillmore County in southeast Minnesota. Terrain is relatively flat, with gradual hills, but is prone to flash flooding with the Spring Valley Creek flowing through it. Population is 2,394.

The main StormReady contacts are John Dols and Mike Zimmer, two Emergency Management directors of Spring Valley. Secondary contacts include Jeff Kappers, also with Spring Valley Emergency Management, and Jim Cooper, Spring Valley Ambulance Director. We met primarily with John Dols and toured the community with him. The community has always been pro-active and very involved in severe weather operations and preparedness.


24 Hour Warning Point

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is located at Spring Valley Ambulance station on the east side of town. There are backup operations at the fire station.

At the ambulance station/EOC, here are the methods NWS information is monitored:

  • County / Fire Frequencies (Communication with Preston)
  • VHF Radio with southeast Minnesota network (via Olmsted Co. EOC), including pagers 
  • Internet
  • Amateur Radio
  • NOAA Weather Radio
  • Television

Pros: The Spring Valley Emergency Management group and spotters in the area have always done a great job and are very pro-active. They are quite involved and knowledgeable with radio communications (including 2 Amateur Radios) and keep updated directly with the National Weather Service in La Crosse often. They keep close tabs on the weather trends via this method in addition to television and the Internet. The ambulance garage is a nice, updated facility that makes running an EOC ideal. They also have pre-designated storm spotting locations around the community (detailed on maps) and many different methods to communicate not only with the county but also the NWS.

Cons: VHF Radio with Olmsted Co. EOC and the La Crosse NWS may need to be upgraded to 800 MHz in the future.

For a community this size, only three (3) are required.   Monitoring at the EOC is in addition to receiving information from the warning point at the county level (Fillmore County Sheriff Dept. / Preston). 


Hydro-Meteorological Monitoring

There is a new, automated weather station at the ambulance garage in Spring Valley, located on a telephone pole just northeast of the building. There is also a cooperative weather station in town, several blocks away. A standard 11-inch rain gauge was also given to the group for manual rainfall readings at the garage/EOC. Rain gauges were distributed around the head waters of the Spring Valley Creek years ago, but there locations are currently unknown.

For a community this size, only one (1) is required.  Internet and television sources also provide monitoring capability.


Local Warning Dissemination

Spring Valley has three outdoor warning sirens. One is located on the south side of town, near the pool/park. One is in the center of town (pictured below; newer model). Another older siren is located on the north side of town, near Highway 63. They normally activate them from the garage/EOC, but they can be activated at the siren locations as well.

They normally activate them when under a warning or when local observations suggest an immediate threat, warning or no warning. They are tested monthly.

Spring Valley also has a telephone tree with a few selected contacts that are made during severe weather.  They also use pagers and various radios to help communicate the threat(s).

For a community this size, only one (1) method is required.  The cable TV override listed on their application was not verified.


NOAA Weather Radio Use

NOAA Weather Radios (NWR) are located at the four main contact points - 1) Ambulance garage/EOC (scanner), 2) City Hall, 3) the community center, and 4) schools. The radio at City Hall had good reception, although the radio tested at the high school had very weak reception. Local emergency management directors checked and radio reception at the attached elementary school was good.  In addition, further radio distribution to the public library and pool in town was recommended.  Using a scanner may also miss initial issuances of watches and warnings like a regular weather radio would.

NOTE: An external antenna proved unuseful to aid the Reecom model NWR at the high school on 5/11/09.

NOAA Weather Radios would normally monitor the transmitter site at Rochester (WXK41).


Preparedness

There has been safety talks in December (at the ambulance garage) and with the highway dept. workshop in January 2009.  There is a disaster drill planned as well, but no details were shared at this point.

SKYWARN weather spotter training has been held in Spring Valley in the past, and is scheduled again on April 13th, 2009. There are quite a few amateur radio operators along with an active fire department.


Administrative

Spring Valley has an Emergency Actions Plan that dictates notification procedures. In addition, they have a separate severe weather action plan including check lists of who to contact and what all happens with the event (from initial notification to watch to warning, etc.)

Spring Valley has always been pro-active with regards to communication to the La Crosse NWS, either directly or via Olmsted County EOC. They are also willing to move spotters around much of western Fillmore County and assist neighboring communities with spotter deployment and guidance as well.

The NWS visited Spring Valley on 3/9/09 and 5/11/09, while officials from Spring Valley visited the NWS in March 2009.  The StormReady recognition ceremony was held at the city council meeting on Monday, May 11, 2009.


Hillsboro fire hall spotting
Spring Valley Ambulance Garage / EOC Main EOC showing communications and monitoring capability One of three outdoor warning sirens
Spring Valley Fire station Weather Station at EOC Recognition Ceremony - Spring Valley Emergency Management group


USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.