Today marks the third day of Severe Weather Awareness Week. The annual statewide test tornado drill will be conducted at 1:30 this afternoon. So what does that mean and what should you do?
The annual drill is a great opportunity for you to practice your tornado safety procedures. You may not always be in the comforts of your home where you have everything planned out what to do. Today when the outdoor warning devices are tested and the Weather Alert Radios go off, you are encouraged to practice your tornado shelter plans. If you are in a place where you do not know the plans, then ask your boss, or ask someone at the front desk or cash register of a business. Take those few minutes to find out, where would everyone go if a tornado warning was issued. If you don’t know, ask so you are armed with that knowledge. Preparedness is one key to prevention.
A few key terms and bits of information for you to remember:
1) Tornado Sirens – are OUTDOOR warning devices. They are NOT meant to be heard in doors. Granted, some of you can and do hear them, however, you should not rely on them as a primary means of alerting. (I have attached an information sheet to this email on Outdoor Warning Sirens). You should consider investing in:….
2) A NOAA All Hazards Weather Radio – these devices can be purchased in various places. The great thing about these is you can program them to a specific area. This way, you only have to listen to the alerts issued for your county or place of interest. They will sound for watches and warnings. They have battery backup in the event you lose power. Additionally, they make portable radios that you can take with you camping, hiking, fishing, boating, etc. You can always be prepared and stay alert to rapidly developing and changing weather situations.
3) Sheltering in a:
- a. Building – NO matter what the building is (with the exception of mobile homes), if there is not a designated storm shelter, go to the center part of the building on the lowest floor (basement if you have access to one). Put as many walls between you and the storm as possible. If you get caught in a grocery store, shopping center, gas station, etc. ask them where they shelter. It doesn’t hurt to ask them ahead of time, especially if you frequent them often.
- b. Mobile Homes – Most mobile homes are not built to withstand winds in excess of 75 mph. If you live in a mobile home, locate your nearest shelter and plan to go there in the event of tornadic weather or severe thunderstorms with winds in excess of 75 mph.
- c. Car – If at all possible, leave the car and go into a shelter. If that is not option, then exit the vehicle, lie down in a ditch and cover your head. If there are no ditches, then make sure you are buckled in your vehicle, duck down as low as possible and cover your head. If you pull off to the side of the road, make sure you do not park under power poles, trees, or other objects that can topple over on the vehicle.
- d. At the lake – If you get caught at a lake or a campsite, find the best possible place to shelter yourself from flying debris, get low and cover your head. Find something to hang onto. Learn how to recognize a tornado. If you see debris swirling around (also known as a debris cloud), it is a tornado. Attached to this email is a brochure discussing severe weather at a lake/campsite.
Page 2 of 2 - 4) Tornado Watch – A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. You should keep your eye on the weather and be alert to rapidly changing conditions.
5) Tornado Warning – A Tornado Warning means that severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are either occurring or expected to occur at anytime. I have also attached brochures with tornado warning information and what to do if you are at a school, in a mobile home or vehicle, and if you are puzzled by a tornado warning. Contrary to the beliefs of some, this is not the time to go out and start taking photos. If you are not already in a shelter, you should get their immediately. If you are waiting for the outdoor warning (tornado) sirens to sound, you have waited to long.
6) Get Educated – Attend a severe weather safety/storm spotter training. Learn what you are looking at and how to be prepared. Chance Hayes with the National Weather Service office in Wichita will be conducting a public severe weather safety program that is free to the public on Saturday, March 9th, 10:00 am at the Civic Center in El Dorado. For other available trainings in Butler County, you can visit http://www.butlercoema.org/6852/index.html. For additional trainings offered by the National Weather Service across the South Central area, visit their website at: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/?n=spottertalks
While ultimately we hope for a quite severe weather season that brings us plenty of moisture, you still need to be prepared and educated for severe weather. We encourage you to share this information with your friends and family. It’s better to be educated and know how to stay safe rather than become a statistic.