Severe weather safety is something that I talk about constantly on the air (So much so that you're probably long tired of me talking about it!). Being aware of the possibility of dangerous weather, however, can potentially safe your life!
Many people are under the impression that severe weather only happens in the Spring and Summer months, but if the past year has shown us something time and time again, it's that severe weather can happen ANY time of the year, and it can happen ANYWHERE. (According to our friends at NOAA, the only place a tornado has never been recorded is in Antarctica, but it's "not impossible" for that type of event to occur!)
The most important thing to know in terms of severe weather awareness, or what I like to call, being "weather aware" is the difference between a Watch and a Warning.
A Watch (Whether it's a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, Tornado Watch, or some other kind of Watch) simply means that atmospheric conditions are favorable for something to occur. Simply put, an event COULD occur, but there's no immediate threat.
A Warning means that something IS occurring and you should take immediate action.
For the purpose of this blog, we're going to talk briefly about thunderstorm safety and tornado safety. I'll start with thunderstorms.
There are so many different threats that come with thunderstorms, from damaging wind gusts, to large hail, to frequent lightning and heavy rainfall. It's not hard to stay safe during a thunderstorm, if you know what to do to protect yourself.
If you're at home or indoors during a thunderstorm, stay away from windows. Close your curtains or blinds, and avoid going outdoors until the thunderstorm has passed. Avoid plumbing, faucets, and other areas of water in your home, such as the sink, or the shower. These areas, along with corded appliances, such as telephones, can conduct electricity. (Cell phones, however, are okay to use. In fact, it's important to have your phone fully charged if you know there is a threat of severe weather because there are several different smart phone applications, which can keep you updated on the weather!)
Television sets, computers, and other electronics should be avoided too.
If you have anything outdoors that could be taken away by thunderstorm winds, bring it indoors or secure it. Pets and children should also be brought inside.
While many thunderstorms contain lightning and no hail, some storms do produce hail. There are also thunderstorms, which produce LARGE hail and very high winds. We called these severe. In order for a thunderstorm to be called a Severe Thunderstorm, it must have winds in excess if 58 mph and hail greater than an inch in diameter.
If you hear the term "Severe Thunderstorm Warning", you should follow all of the safety tips you would for a regular thunderstorm.
It's also important to have your NOAA Weather Radio ON, so you'll know if a watch or warning is issued, and how long that watch or warning is in place.
I know we've gone through a lot of information so far, but remember, staying "weather aware" is important year round -- especially here in the Deep South, where severe weather is a fairly frequent occurance.
Moving on to tornado safety, the NOAA Weather Radio I was just talking about is a potentially LIFE-SAVING device. Weather radios will alert you day and night if a watch or warning is issued, and this is particularly important in terms of tornado safety.
Just like with any warning, a Tornado Warning means that you should take action IMMEDIATELY.
You should go to the most interior room on the lowest level of your home. A basement is ideal, but if you do not have a basement or storm shelter, go to the most interior room on the lowest level of your home (This may be a closet, or a hallway). The idea is to put as many walls between yourself and the outside of your home as possible.
Next, cover your head. Debris of all sizes can be lifted into the air, so you want to protect yourself as best as you can. It's important not only to cover your head with your hands, but with a blanket, clothing, or even a helmet, such as bicycle helmet or football helmet.
A mattress is also an option, but if you cannot quickly pull a mattress into your "safe place" with you, there's no sense in using valuable time to try to remove the mattress from your bed. Simply grab a blanket or other soft item, and head to your safe spot!