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This week’s focus during National Preparedness Month is weather safety. We experience many different types of potentially dangerous weather in Southeast Missouri, including ice, snow, extreme heat and cold, thunderstorms, strong winds, and even tornadoes. Here are some top tips to help keep you and your family safe during severe weather events.
1. Where to turn for information: There are a plethora of different ways you can receive severe weather information. Many local TV and radio stations broadcast during events to bring you specific information about dangers you may face. Some media outlets also have smartphone apps that can alert you to changing weather. FEMA also has an app that allows you to set up weather, and other, alerts. You might consider purchasing several inexpensive all-hazards weather radios for your home and/or office. Have multiple methods through which to receive severe weather alerts.
2. Know the difference between a watch and a warning. A severe weather advisory or watch is issued when conditions are favorable for strong storms or winter weather to develop. This means that meteorologists will be watching storms that occur for their possible, or probable, effects. A warning means that severe weather is occurring, or is likely occurring, in a given area. Example: A tornado warning is issued when radars indicate that a storm may be capable of producing a tornado, or one is sighted by a trained weather spotter, or both.
3. What to do during winter weather events: Regardless of whether the winter weather punch packs ice, snow, or both, you’ll want to be prepared for the elements, potential dangerously low temperatures, and the storm’s after-effects. Make sure your home has been winterized, and take precautions to avoid frozen pipes. Make sure you have food and supplies to last for a minimum of three days, should the snow and ice leave you without electricity and/or water. Avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. Properly fuel and use generators. When shoveling driveways, take frequent breaks and guard against frostbite and hypothermia.
4. What to do during severe thunderstorms and tornadoes: Both severe thunderstorms and tornadoes present unique and specific threats. Thunderstorms produce lightning, which kills more people yearly than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rains from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding. Their high winds can also cause damages to your homes or down nearby trees and power lines. Tornadoes form within certain thunderstorms and can range in intensity. Regardless of their strength, tornadoes can cause damage to your home. For both severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, seek shelter in an interior room away from windows. The safest place in the event of a tornado is underground in a shelter, like a basement or safe room. Mobile homes are not safe during strong winds and/or tornadoes! If you are driving, seek shelter immediately. Do not vacate your vehicle to take shelter under an interstate overpass. Here’s a list of instructions on what to do after a tornado or severe weather.
5. Dealing with extreme heat and cold: During extreme heat or cold, make sure you have an appropriate means of shelter, with air conditioning or heat, when appropriate. During both cold and heat, folks with certain health conditions may be more susceptible to various conditions. Get to know your neighbors, and check on them as needed. Don’t forget to give appropriate shelter to your pets, as well! Here’s more information on heat wave safety and extreme cold safety.
7. Know the severe weather myths vs. facts: There’s a ton of weather and response to weather myths out there! Make sure you know what’s truth and what’s fiction, such as the following common topics:
- Outdoor warning (storm) sirens are made to be heard outdoors, not indoors. – TRUTH. You may simply hear them indoors because of their proximity to your home, but they’re designed to alert people outdoors that may not have TV or radio alerts to impending weather situations.
- Highway and interstate overpasses are safe shelters against a tornado. – MYTH. Overpasses can concentrate winds, causing them to be significantly stronger and more dangerous.
- The low pressure in a tornado causes homes to explode, so you should open windows. – MYTH. Opening windows will have no effect on your home’s pressure. Save valuable time and get to shelter immediately.
- Large and heavy vehicles are safe driving through floodwaters. – MYTH. It takes only a small amount of water to float even larger vehicles, like SUVs and pickups. Since you will likely not be able to tell how deep the flooded area is, never, under any circumstances, drive through floodwaters. Turn around, don’t drown!
Image sources: Wikimedia Commons