Severe weather reared its ugly head earlier than normal this year by whipping up devastating tornadoes, baseball-sized hail and wind gusts strong enough to blow vehicles off the road. As a reminder, tornadoes, lightning, flash floods and other ominous weather conditions can occur at anytime of the year, if the atmospheric conditions are right, not just during Tornado Season. Check out these Severe Weather Safety tips to keep you and your family safe when the skies turn threatening.
Severe Weather Safety Tip No. 1 – Watch vs. Warning
Knowing the difference between a Watch and a Warning could save your life. The National Weather Service issues a Watch (severe thunderstorm, tornado, etc.) when conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather. Watches include broad swaths of real estate, encompassing many counties and sometimes states where severe weather potential exists, for the hours storms are expected to occur.
A Warning, on the other hand, means severe weather is occurring and could be heading straight for you – forecasters use a network of radars, trained-spotters and first responders to keep an eye on the sky and notify local communities when severe storms/tornadoes are imminent. When a Warning is issued, take cover immediately.
Severe Weather Safety Tip No. 2 – Stay Alert
With advancements in severe weather forecasting many times severe weather outlooks are posted several days in advance by storm chasers, the Storms Prediction Center, local and national weather personalities.
Whether it’s a sunny, humid June afternoon or a cloudy, dreary February evening pay attention to changing weather conditions if storms are in the forecast. It’s easy to do, keep an eye on the sky and monitor local news broadcasts -many provide non-stop coverage during a severe weather outbreak.
And purchase a NOAA Weather Radio if you do not already own one. The weather radio is obnoxiously loud when a Watch or Warning is issued and it’s nearly impossible to miss the shrieking tone from anywhere in your home or office. The alerts provide crucial details, timelines and courses of action to take. The average lead-time for Tornado Warnings is 13 minutes – giving you time to seek and find shelter.
Severe Weather Safety Tip No. 3 – Have a Plan
Before the next bout of severe weather rolls into town make a plan on what to do:
- If you have a basement, stock it with flashlights, blankets, bottled water, a medical kit and other necessities you may need while hunkering down and/or waiting to be rescued. Don’t forget to provide leashes, treats and travel kennels to help take care of your furry friends during the storm. And make sure to take your purse, wallet and phone with you, you will need these after the storm has passed to contact relatives, access cash and provide proof of insurance.
- If you don’t have a basement or crawl space, put as many walls and doors between you and the storm as possible; sometimes the safest location is a bathroom or a closet. Make sure to also grab blankets, pillows and if you have athletic helmets (batting, football or lacrosse) in your home, put them on.
- Have a plan at work, the gym and school – storms are not going to wait for you to reach the safety of your own home.
- Have exit plans for your ride home – the last thing you want is to get stuck on the Fox River Bridge being pummeled with golf ball size hail and funnel clouds swirling overhead. As soon as a Tornado Warning is issued either pull into a local business or pull over to the side of the road and lie in a ditch. Make sure to avoid overpasses, as these act as wind tunnels and increase the velocity of the wind.
Severe Weather Safety Tip No. 4 – Get the App or Like on Social
Download a Weather App to get forecasts, alerts, Doppler radar images and more – perfect for keeping an eye on the weather when you’re at work, out with friends or at your children’s outdoor activities.
Several storm chasers and meteorologists provide valuable Facebook Pages that alert their followers to impending storms, chase footage and details about storm recovery. Check out Illinois Storm Chasers, Dr. Greg Forbes and NOAA NWS Storm Prediction Center for informative updates.
Don’t forget to check out these additional spring weather safety tips when Mother Nature turns wicked! And remember we’re here to help in anyway we can if you are affected by severe weather – give us a call at 800-323-2611.
Do you have any tips for severe weather preparedness? Please share below, we’d love to hear your ideas and stay safe: