Winter is almost out of the picture for most of us in the region, and that means that Spring is on its way! But with Spring comes storm season, are you prepared? Here's some tips and information to keep you and your family safe this season.
In 2012, 28 people died from being struck by lightning, and 5 of them were from Texas.
Lightning can strike in many places, and will strike anywhere outdoors. A good way to know if you are in danger is by hearing its natural battle cry: Thunder.
When you hear thunder you are hearing the air expanding around a lightning strike, and it can be heard up to 10 miles from the strike! So the smart thing to do is if you hear thunder, get indoors. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the thunderstorm, so if you hear the thunder, you are already in the strike zone!
If you are caught outside during a lightning storm, find a sturdy, non-metallic building to find shelter in, and stay away from windows. Don't stand underneath a tree, it may shield you from rain, but it will be a hot spot for strikes.
Overall, when thunder roars, go indoors. You don't want to be one of the 28!
A lot of times during severe weather season, you will see a thunderstorm that produces gusty downburst winds. In some cases, these can be just as damaging as a tornado.
A good way to know whether or not a thunderstorm will have damaging winds is to listen to a media outlet, look at the latest weather from www.weather.gov, or listen to a weather radio. All of these resources will most likely give you a message that sounds something like this:
AT 748 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING QUARTER SIZE HAIL...AND DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED 8 MILES SOUTH OF BENBROOK...MOVING EAST AT 10 MPH.
60+ mph winds can throw around light-weight objects, knock over small trees, and can even knock over fences. Some storms can get winds of 70 mph or more! The local emergency management is required to set off their outdoor warning sirens when the winds reach 73 mph.
If a storm is heading your way that has high winds of 65+ mph, bring in any outdoor pets, close any open windows and get away from them, and get to the bottom floor.
First lets get the big question out of the way, "What's the difference between a 'Watch' and a 'Warning'?"
A Tornado Watch means that conditions are right for the formation of tornadoes, not that one has been spotted. These are normally issued hours before a storm is expected, to let citizens be aware of the possible danger that could happen. When this is issued, take that time to gather emergency supplies: batteries, water bottles, and a battery powered radio. Make contact with your family and let them know a plan in case a tornado warning is issued.
A Tornado Warning is what should get you moving. This means that a tornado was either been spotted by a trained storm spotter or that meteorologists have spotted a signature on the radar that symbolizes tornadic activity.
When a Warning is issued for your area, get to cover THEN. Don't wait until the wind starts blowing outside, because by then it will probably be too late. Take your supplies and get to a centralized location of your home/business on the bottom floor. Bathrooms (with little to no windows), closets, pantries, and small hallways are the best places to be.
In the event you are elsewhere than your home, make sure you do not take cover in a large room (gymnasium, auditorium, concert hall, etc). These areas will be first to collapse if the building structure is compromised because it has little support for the roof.
If you are in your vehicle, make sure you do NOT park underneath an overpass for shelter. These will work as a wind tunnel. Ideally, you will want to find a sturdy building and take shelter immediately. If shelter is not available, get out of you car, and find a ditched area. Lay face down in the ditch with your hands covering your head. The lowering in the ground will make it harder for the wind to get ahold of you and pick you up!
With tornadoes comes the one thing that some people enjoy - picture taking. Don't risk your life to go outside and take pictures or video of a tornado. I can almost guarantee there is a professional photographer/meteorologist that has been following the storm, and has gotten a picture.
Flash flooding is the leading cause of death in the U.S. in regards to severe weather with over 140 deaths reported each year.
Storms can produce heavy rainfall and if it's heavy enough, can cause roadways to become covered in standing water. Two feet of moving water can sweep a car off the road. If you are unsure whether or not your car can make it through a flooded area, "Turn around, don't drown®!".
After the flooding has ceased, make sure you don't go near any damaged areas. Live electrical wires could be exposed, and you don't want to get near that! Also stay away from any moving water; If it only takes two feet to pick up a car, it should be easy to pick you up.
After major floods, emergency workers and rescue teams will be out. Help them out by staying off the roads and out of the way; "damage-seekers" are a nuisance to emergency personnel.
In the event that severe weather occurs, you can always turn to 88.9 KETR-FM for live, current weather information!
Stay safe and stay tuned!