Severe weather can happen any time, but the higher incidence of severe weather occurs in the spring.
Signs of severe weather
Darkening skies, increased wind, and flashes of lightning are signs a severe storm is coming. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be in danger of lightning strikes and should take shelter if you are outdoors. Tornadoes are often preceded by dark or greenish clouds, large hail, a funnel cloud, or a roaring noise.
What is difference between a watch and a warning?
A watch means that weather conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop. A watch does not mean severe weather is about to strike; instead, residents should be alert and prepared to take shelter. Watches are the time to turn on local TV, radio, or weather radio, make sure there is ready access to a safe shelter, and make sure friends and family are aware of the potential for severe weather or tornadoes in the area.
A warning means that severe weather has been spotted in the immediate area or that radar indicates a circulating thunderstorm is capable of spawning a tornado. When a warning is issued, take safety precautions immediately.
Tornadoes or other severe weather conditions can easily overwhelm emergency forces. As an example, Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005, affected a good part of many states. As a result of a major weather event, area residents may be left to fend for themselves until emergency personnel can get to them. Having a “72 hour kit” is a great emergency preparedness for everyone.
What is a 72 hour kit?
This is a kit of emergency supplies that are kept at home in the event of an emergency. In a major emergency, the fire and police departments will know assistance is needed, however getting
to the location of an emergency may be complicated by fallen trees, building materials, wires, etc. Initially, first responders will also need to prioritize their actions. Emergency personnel will respond to all calls, but it could take some time, so a 72 hour kit can help residents be prepared to take care of themselves until help arrives.
A partial list of equipment that should be in a 72 hour kit include a battery operated flashlight and radio, extra batteries, work shoes, spare clothes, a pry tool, first aid kit, cell phone, bottled water (recommended is one gallon per person per day), ready-to-eat food, pens/paper, hygiene supplies, garbage cans with lids, and money (remember that in a power loss ATMs will not be working).
It is also a good idea to have a meeting place where family members can gather. In an emergency, residents will not be allowed into a damaged site. There should also be a secondary site, or a person that people can contact, that is far out of the area in the event that the first site is not accessible. Remember, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many regions in the area were not accessible.
More Safety Tips:
- Take shelter away from windows, ideally in a basement, crawl space, or windowless room like a first-floor bathroom.
- Create and practice a shelter plan for your home.
- Avoid flood waters. Flash floods can occur during or after severe weather and can easily sweep away people or cars.