Severe Weather Preparedness

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Do you have a plan?

Tornadoes
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year. Although tornadoes are most common in the Central Plains and the southeastern United States, they have been reported in all 50 states.


What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

The links below will help you find out what you can do now to prepare for a tornado. Preparation is key to staying safe and minimizing impacts.

  • Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you're at risk for tornadoes. Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings. Check the Weather-Ready Nation for tips.
  • Sign Up for Notifications: Know how your community sends warnings. Some communities have outdoor sirens. Others depend on media and smartphones to alert residents of severe storms capable of producing tornadoes.
  • Create a Communications Plan: Have a family plan that includes an emergency meeting place and related information. If you live in a mobile home or home without a basement, identify a nearby safe building you can get too quickly, such as a church or family member.
  • Pick a safe room in your homes, such as a basement, storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Check more ideas for your family plan at: https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
  • Practice Your Plan: Conduct a family severe thunderstorm drill regularly so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching. Make sure all members of your family know to go there when tornado warnings are issued. Don't forget pets if time allows.
  • Prepare Your Home: Consider having your safe room reinforced. You can find plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
  • Help Your Neighbor: Encourage your loved ones to prepare for the possibility of tornadoes. Take CPR training so you can help if someone is hurt.

Check into these sites for additional information:

Lightning
Lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year. Although most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time of year. Lightning kills about 20 people in the United States each year, and hundreds more are severely injured. This website will teach you how to stay safe and offer insight into the science of lightning. You'll find animated books about lightning, safety tips for all kinds of situations, games for kids and resources for teachers. You'll learn about lightning victims and survivors.

Hurricane
Hurricanes are among nature's most powerful and destructive phenomena. On average, 12 tropical storms, 6 of which become hurricanes form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. In the Central Pacific Ocean, an average of 3 tropical storms, 2 of which become hurricanes form or move over the area during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Guam, the Northern Marianas, and Micronesia experience typhoons all year round but the main season is July through November with a peak from mid-August to mid-September. Over a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, 1 of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater). By knowing what actions to take before the hurricane season begins when a hurricane approaches, and when the storm is in your area, as well as what to do after a hurricane leaves your area, you can increase your chance of survival. If you, or someone you know, have been a victim of a hurricane, please share your story, including the town and state you were in and the year the event took place... Please note that NS will then have permission to use your story for educational campaigns. Sharing this information may help save someone’s life in the future. Read stories from survivors and learn how to stay safe.

Hurricane Hazards
While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.

  • Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths in the United States. Storm surges and large battering waves can result in large loss of life and cause massive destruction along the coast.
  • Storm surges can travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers, and estuaries.
  • Flooding from heavy rains is the second leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.
  • Winds from a hurricane can destroy buildings and manufactured homes. Signs, roofing material, and other items left outside can become flying missiles during hurricanes.
  • Tornadoes can accompany landfalling tropical cyclones. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the storm.
  • Dangerous waves produced by a tropical cyclone's strong winds can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. These waves can cause deadly rip currents, significant beach erosion, and damage to structures along the coastline, even when the storm is more than 1,000 miles offshore.

The major hazards associated with hurricanes are:

Here are some valuable information resources for Hurricane Preparedness:

Flooding
Flooding is a coast-to-coast threat to some parts of the United States and its territories nearly every day of the year. This site is designed to teach you how to stay safe in a flood event. If you know what to do before, during, and after a flood you can increase your chances of survival and better protect your property. For instance, it is vital to know what to do if you are driving and hit a flooded road. Here you will find an interactive flood map, information describing the different types of flooding and educational material.  You will also learn how the National Weather Service keeps you aware of potentially dangerous flooding situations through alerts and warnings.

Disaster Assistance & Relief


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