Severe Weather Awareness Week: March 14-18
Spring is nearly here, and along with the change of seasons, comes the chance of severe weather in the area.
The National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide these tips to help communities stay safe from storms.
Thunderstorms are a common occurrence across Nebraska, and if the right conditions exist, some will become severe.
If a thunderstorm produces hail equal to or greater than one inch in diameter, winds equal to or greater than 58 miles per hour, or a tornado, it is considered severe.
Thunderstorms can and do occur at any time of the year, but the most common time for thunderstorms, especially severe, is during the spring, summer and early fall.
There are many dangerous aspects of thunderstorms that pose a threat to life and property:
• Lightning: occurs with all thunderstorms
• Floods: kill more people on average than any other severe weather hazard
• Straight-line winds: can exceed 100 mph with damage comparable to a tornado.
Large hail: causes millions of dollars each year in crop and property damage.
Each year, many people are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms despite advance warning. Some did not hear the warning, while others heard the warning but did not believe it would happen to them.
The following preparedness information, combined with timely severe weather watches and warnings, could save a life. Once a warning is issued or skies threaten, make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives.
Tornadoes can happen any time of the year, and at any time during the day or night. Though more common in the afternoon and evening hours, tornadoes can happen and have been reported at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
Many people think a tornado is always visible, but during high amounts of precipitation, it can be completely wrapped in rain, making it indistinguishable from surrounding clouds.
Contrary to what some may believe, tornadoes can and do cross rivers, mountains, and big cities. For these reasons, it is very important to have a plan of action in case of a tornado.
What should I do when a tornado is approaching or a warning has been issued?
Seek shelter immediately. Once in shelter, take the protection position.
Where do I go?
Reinforced shelters: A basement or underground shelter is the best option. Protect head and eyes from flying debris. If no basement is available, go to an interior area on the lowest floor, such as a bathroom or closet. If possible, get under something sturdy like a bench or table. Stay away from windows.
What should I do if I am outdoors, in a mobile home or at school, work, shopping center or other building?
If outside and cannot quickly walk to a shelter, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle the seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
As a last resort, stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put head below windows, covering with hands and blanket if possible. If possible to get lower than the level of the roadway, exit car and lie in area, covering your head with your hands. Never seek shelter under a bridge or overpass.
Evacuate mobile home immediately. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to overturning and destruction from strong winds. If possible go to a community shelter. If none is available, a ditch, culvert, or other low lying area may offer better protection. Have a plan of action prepared before storm hits.
One dangerous aspect of weather that sometimes is not taken as seriously as others is lightning. Summer is the peak season for one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena, but don’t be fooled, lightning strikes happen at all times of the year.
In the U.S., an average of 58 people are killed each year by lightning.
In 2010, 29 people were struck and killed, while hundreds of others were permanently injured. Of the victims who were killed by lightning in 2010:
• 100 percent were outside
• 76 percent were male
• 73 percent were males between the ages of 10 and 49
• 34 percent were under or near a tree
• 21 percent were near or in water
People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, and numbness.
Avoid getting caught in a dangerous situation, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.
• Move into a sturdy building or automobile with metal top. The frame of the building or metal car body will allow the charge to be conducted away from you.
• Outdoor activities such as golfing and baseball can present a risk to those in attendance, as these take place on a fairway or ball field, both of which are wide open. Those attending rodeos or concerts in open arenas, sitting on metal bleachers or under a metal overhang are also at risk.
• Get out of boats and away from water, as water is an electrical conductor. On the open water, a person may become the tallest object and a prime target.
• When indoors, avoid using any corded and electrical appliances. Also stay away from pools, tubs, showers or any other plumbing. Electricity can travel through wiring and plumbing, posing a risk to those in contact.
If someone is struck by lightning, get medical help immediately. With proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most lightning victims survive.
Flash Flood Safety
On average, more people are killed by flooding than by any other single severe weather hazard, including tornadoes, lightning and hurricanes. Most of these deaths occur at night, when it is more difficult to recognize flood dangers, and when people are trapped in vehicles.
• Do not drive onto a flood roadway.
• Do not drive through flowing water
• If approaching a roadway that is flooded, turn around, don’t drown
• Drive with extreme caution if roads are even just wet or it is raining. A driver can lose control of the vehicle if hydroplaning occurs, which is when a layer of water builds up between the tires and the road, causing there to be no direct contact between the vehicle and the road.
If a Flash Flood Warning is Issued
• If advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Act quickly, there may not be much time.
• Get out of areas that are subject to flooding and move to a safe area before access is cut off by flood waters. Low spots such as dips, canyons and washes are not the places to be during flooding.
• Do not camp or park vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
• Do not drive if not necessary. If driving is necessary, do not attempt to drive over a flooded road, as the depth of the water is not always obvious, and the roadway may no longer be intact under the water.
• Never drive around a barricade, they are placed there for drivers’ protection. If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and move to higher ground before water sweeps you and the vehicle away.
• Do not try to walk, swim or play in flood water. It is difficult to determine if there are holes or submerged debris, or how quickly the water is flowing. If water is moving swiftly, as little as six inches can knock a person off their feet.
There is also a danger of hazardous material polluting the water. Also remember that as an electrical conductor, if there are power lines down, there is a possibility of electrocution.
• Always continue to monitor the situation through the National Weather Service website, a NOAA radio, or a favorite local television or radio station.
Have a Plan of Action
Get a Kit
Have at least three days of supplies in an easy-to-carry evacuation kit, with additional supplies on hand. Remember to check your kit and replace the stock every six months.
• water/food • flashlight
• first aid kit • medications
• radio • batteries • tools
• clothing • personal items
• money • map
• contact information
• pet supplies
• sanitary supplies
Make a Plan
Planning ahead will help you have the best possible response to an emergency. Talk with your family and establish responsibilities. Learn how and when to turn off utilities. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Include your pets.
Learn what emergencies may occur where you live, work or play. Know how your local authorities will notify you, and the names of surrounding towns and counties. Check the weather forecast before heading outdoors, and be aware of the signs of an approaching storm. Know where to get updated weather information, whether it be from NOAA Weather Radio, AM/FM radio, or television.