Severe Weather Reminders

Spring and summer are wonderful times of the year for people to be outdoors and enjoy the warm weather.  They are also times when people should be alert and pay attention to rapidly changing weather conditions.  Severe thunderstorms with lightning, heavy rain, hail, high winds and even tornadoes are possible during this time of the year.  As with most potential disasters: preparedness, monitoring the media and common sense can minimize the danger.  Preparedness involves a continuous process of planning, equipping, training and exercising.

Know the terms used by Weather Forecasters:

Flash Flood – A flood which is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours.

Flash Flood Watch – Flash flooding is possible in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent.

Flash Flood Warning – Flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely. Seek higher ground immediately or evacuate if directed to do so.

Severe Thunderstorm – A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph (50 knots), and/ or hail. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Tells you there is a possibility of severe thunderstorms in your area likely to occur.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning – A severe thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon in your area. Warnings are for imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. Seek shelter immediately.

Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.

Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Tornado Season:

Tornadoes are volatile and sometimes unpredictable. Packing wind gusts over 200 mph in some cases, these rotating, funnel-shaped columns of air can injure people, devastate homes and property. In the Southern states, peak tornado season is March through May, while in the Northern states, the peak season is loosely defined as late spring through early summer. But a tornado can occur in any state, during any season, and at any time–which is why it is a good idea to make sure to be prepared in case a tornado strikes.

Warning Signs of a Tornado

FEMA stresses the fact that when a tornado is in the vicinity, you can’t always depend on seeing a funnel cloud. It highlights the following warning signs as possible precursors to tornado activity:

  • Large hail
  • A dark, sometimes greenish sky
  • Large, dark, low-lying clouds, possibly rotating
  • A loud, roaring wind, sometimes described as sounding like a freight train

If you notice these warning signs, officials say you should take shelter immediately and, if possible, tune in to weather and news reports.

Where to Take Shelter During a Tornado

But where to go? FEMA suggests building a safe room, which is a reinforced room that can provide safe shelter, in your home if possible. But, if you don’t have a safe room in your home, the Storm Prediction Center says you should either take shelter in a basement or in an interior room without windows. If you opt for a basement, officials say you should stay underneath a heavy table or work bench, and try to stay away from areas where heavy objects, like the refrigerator or a piano, rest on the floor above. If you don’t have a basement, the SPC says you should go to a small interior room — like a bathroom or a closet — on the first floor and cover yourself with a mattress or thick blanket, to protect yourself from any falling debris. In addition to making a plan to take shelter, it’s important to build an emergency kit for your home, which should include food, water and supplies for up to 72 hours. Another important item to include in your emergency kit is a battery-powered radio, which can allow you to listen to weather reports, news updates and any emergency instructions. Establishing a family communications plan may also be a good idea in case of an emergency, which may strike when some family members are away from home. provides a worksheet that can help your family decide where to meet and whom to call in case of an emergency.

After the Tornado

Even after the twister has passed, the danger isn’t necessarily gone, so it’s important to remain cautious. Downed power lines, structural damage to buildings and scattered debris can pose a risk of injury after a tornado. So, even when it’s safe to emerge from your hiding place, be careful. Glass and nails are potential hazards, so FEMA suggests wearing sturdy shoes or boots to protect your feet from dangerous debris. Stay clear of any downed power lines, and don’t attempt to enter any buildings unless emergency personnel have deemed them safe. Tornadoes can strike with little or no warning, but you’re not powerless. Take steps to make sure your family is armed with a plan to stay safe.

Using these quick tips will help everyone stay safe during the spring and summer months when severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are still very prevalent.

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