With March beginning and an extended period of spring-like temperatures in the forecast, followed by the start of Daylight Saving Time next Sunday, there’s no doubt spring is on the way to Kansas. That means severe weather season isn’t far away either — in fact the number of years I’ve chased in March is larger than the number of years I haven’t.
Another harbinger of spring is the annual National Weather Service Severe Weather Awareness Week. Because preparedness and making the right decisions are a big part of why I do the site, I try to participate in SWAW every year.
New to the area? Don’t let the risk of severe weather scare you.
Here are some tips specifically for those who are experiencing their first (or one of their first few) storm seasons:
More often than not, you’ll have plenty of advance notice.
Yes, severe storms occasionally pop up from “nowhere.” But given the state of severe forecasting skill and the number of tools and channels for getting that information to you, there’s really no reason to be surprised in 99% of the cases. That other 1% is nearly always a “popcorn” storm that, while technically severe, rarely causes more than an inconvenience.
Because this happens every year, your neighbors both understand your fear and have been through it before. Don’t let the media hype train get you too worked up. There are a lot of preparedness resources right here, and many other places on the web.
The single biggest storm safety tool is being aware of your surroundings. That’s right, the advice for weathering the storm is very similar to the best advice for safety in just about any situation. An example I like to give is to look for the signs showing the way to shelter in the stores where you commonly shop. Know that the majority of severe storms happen between 3pm and 9pm, so maybe concentrate your errands into the morning if you don’t want to get caught outside in a storm. When you know severe weather is forecast keep an eye on the sky (especially to the west and south) and you’ll see the signs well in advance.
I ran across a neat page while researching this post: https://www.weather.gov/safety/tornado-survivors. Each story emphasizes the key advice for tornado safety: DUCK
Here are things you can do to be ready
- Be Weather-Ready: Check the forecast regularly to see if you’re at risk for tornadoes. Listen to local news or a 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 smart phones 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 to quickly, such as a church or family member.
- Pick a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar, or an 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 first aid training so you can help if someone is hurt.
Here are some more preparedness links across KSStorm.Info:
- KSStorm.info’s Storm Preparation Resource List: https://ksstorm.info/ksstorm-infos-storm-prep-resource-list/
- The three things tornado victims wish they had: https://ksstorm.info/the-3-things-tornado-victims-wish-they-had/
- All Hazards Alert Radios (weather radios): why they’re so important — https://ksstorm.info/best-argument-for-getting-a-weather-radio/
Disclaimer: Yes, storm preparedness is a serious matter. I chose humorous images this year because we so often get “too” serious about severe storms — it’s important to remember this is a natural part of the cycle of every year on the plains.