Community kept safe, thanks to its storm tracker
by Chris Collett
March 23, 2013 12:28 AM | 1606 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Chris Collett<br>Columnist
Chris Collett
Spring is here, and that means the flowers begin to bloom and the gardens are planted. In addition to that, we lost an hour to daylight saving time, which means we have more time to work and play outside.

But spring sometimes brings us something not quite so positive. It brings storms that at times include tornados.

In the early ’70s, around 1974, Cherokee County was hit hard by tornados.

This was true especially in the Yellow Creek community. It was a scary time because we didn’t have the around-the-clock news coverage that we do today. We also didn’t have the technology we do today which has saved so many lives through early warnings.

What we did have was Byron Dobbs on WCHK and Atlanta television news at noon, 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Other than that, you were on your own. So what you did was keep your eye on the sky.

During this series of storms in the 1970s, my brother and I were kept out of school for a day when the most severe storms were forecast. As a matter of fact, many students were kept at home.

Because of the destruction in the Yellow Creek Community, folks were afraid.

Thankfully, technology has saved lives in many ways. Now, meteorologists can tell within a few yards of where a tornado might hit. We also have constant news that keeps us informed as to the latest of weather dangers.

But Cherokee County has something even better than the normal. We have the Emergency Operations Center that is part of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Not only do they monitor the weather around the clock, but they also keep the locals informed through emails and Facebook notifications.

For the last several years, this operation has been run by Robby Westbrook.

Robby did a phenomenal job in keeping the citizens of Cherokee County informed on upcoming dangerous weather conditions. Robby did this for us even through the tragic loss of his lovely wife Donna to an automobile accident not long ago.

But Robby decided it was time to retire. And even though he retired, he agreed to work part time in making sure that the operation continued to run as it always had. But Robby didn’t leave us alone. He left us in the hands of Renee Padgett Cornelison.

It was an absolute privilege to grow up with Renee at North Canton Elementary. She actually grew up in the North Canton Village where her parents still reside the last time I checked.

It is safe to say that Renee was raised right. It was evident throughout her childhood and continued in to her adult life. She was never someone who looked for accolades and still doesn’t. She just wants to do the right thing.

She continues doing the right thing today just as she did as a child by keeping us informed of impending storms through social media.

When we are all hunkering down, Renee is hard at work tracking the storms that are heading our way. Many times that means she is up all night while we try to sleep.

But she does it because it is her job and it’s the right thing to do.

Renee is now married to Donnie Cornelison and they have been together for a long time.

When we were in elementary school, I was sweet on Renee. But as our high school days came, we grew apart. Renee stayed on the right course and I didn’t always make the best decisions.

And now as adults in this complicated world, she and I both have been a part of public safety for many years. She is someone who can be counted on. She was a friend in childhood and remains a friend to this day. And more importantly, she is a friend to Cherokee County.

I have no doubt she took the ethical and moral lessons we learned from the wonderful teachers and staff at North Canton Elementary and carried them over in to her personal and professional life.

And that is why she has obtained such success.

So the next time you sit at home with your family and check your social media for storm updates, think about this fine young woman who has left her family at home to stay up all night keeping us informed and safe.

Renee’s work impacts all of our lives.

More importantly, my life is richer for having her friendship.

Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of

Cherokee County.

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