Joe’s Wx Blog: Talkin’ severe weather

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Well it snowed a bit last night but accumulations were minor, if any, thanks to temperatures that were near to above freezing…so another system has now moved out of our hair, and when I checked the snow depth @ KCI this AM, they were down to 2″ which is a big change from yesterday. Here on the south side we have more than that, maybe doubled still on the ground but a lot of it is certainly melting and my sump pump is running hard this days and will continue to do so because of all the melting, and since the next storm promises more rain than anything frozen, that will continue over the weekend as well.

So with those somewhat more “spring” thoughts, let’s talk a bit about severe weather. Today is day #2 of Severe Weather Awareness week and is designated as Tornado Day. No there won’t be any tornados and I see no chances of severe weather anytime soon, but it is a reminder that 1) ANY day of the year could produce severe weather and 2) do you have a plan for when your community is placed under a Tornado warning? Do you know what to do? Odds are if your reading this you probably don’t. Heck do you even know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning? Research suggests about 50% of you don’t, and that research was conducted in a very tornado prone area.

Today @ 1:30 there will be a statewide tornado drill on both the MO side and KS side. Here is a quote from the NWS webpage talking about the agencies involved.

“The statewide tornado drill for Kansas and Missouri, including the counties in the Pleasant Hill forecast and warning area, will take place on Tuesday, March 5th, at 1:30 p.m.   The National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill will issue a test tornado warning as part of the drill.  Local warning sirens, NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, and the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will be activated upon receipt of this warning, to signal the start of the drill. The “TOR” code for EAS and NOAA Weather Radio will be used again this year to simulate what would occur in the event of an actual tornado warning. Residents should treat the drill as if it were an actual tornado emergency.  The purpose of the annual drill is to test everyone’s readiness for life-threatening severe weather events such as tornadoes, flash floods, large hail, and damaging winds.”

Here is some additional information from the NWS concerning tornado safety…

IN HOMES OR SMALL BUILDINGS: Go to the basement (if available) or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Upper floors are unsafe. If there is no time to descend, go to a closet, a small room with strong walls, or an inside hallway. Wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris.

IN SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS, FACTORIES, OR SHOPPING CENTERS: Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head. Don’t take shelter in halls that open to the south or the west. Centrally-located stairwells are good shelter

IN HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS: Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.

IN MOBILE HOMES: ABANDON THEM IMMEDIATELY!  Most deaths occur in cars and mobile homes. If you are in either of those locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter.

IN VEHICLES:  IF POSSIBLE, DRIVE AWAY!  If not, get into a sturdy shelter (building).  As a last resort, you need to make a personal decision whether to ride it out in your car hunched down below the windows with your SEATBELT ON, or to lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression with your hands covering your head.

IF NO SUITABLE STRUCTURE IS NEARBY: Lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head, or remain in your vehicle with your seat belt fastened,  crouching down below the window. These options should be considered last resorts.

DURING A TORNADO:  Absolutely avoid buildings with large free-span roofs. Stay away from west and south walls.  Remember, seek shelter on the    lowest level, go to the smallest room, and center part of the building.

No matter where you are, do some advance planning if possible. Identify protective areas you can get to in a hurry. Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio that will provide an alarm if a tornado watch or warning is in effect for your county. The key to tornado survival is to be prepared and to take immediate action when a warning is issued or when you spot a tornado. Remember, the actions you take during a tornado may save your life and the lives of your family.

You can also find additional safety information in the NOAA brochure “Tornadoes, Thunderstorms and Lightning“, available on-line from the National Weather Service.”

What’s amazing about 2012, and another sign of the drought that took hold was the lack of severe weather. According to stats that I dug up this AM…there were only 3 Tornado warnings issued from the NWS office in Pleasant Hill. That’s an amazingly low number. There were 111 Severe T/storm Warnings issued, which sounds large but compared to 2011 was paltry. In 2011 there were 54 Tornado warnings issued and 344 Severe T/Storm warnings issued (winds 58 MPH or higher and/or hail 1″ (quarters) or larger).

Meanwhile over in the Topeka NWS area of responsibility…there were 21 Tornado Warnings issued and 127 Severe T/Storm warnings issued. Typically they will have more than us because they are responsible for a large chunk of north central KS and that area is more prone to severe weather than us here in the KC area.

Why am I bringing up those numbers from 2012? Because it was such a quiet year, and there’s a good chance some have let their readiness slip a bit or perhaps haven’t gone over their safety plan with their families in a while. Odds are most schools today will cover some of this in their readiness preparations. It’s a good idea for YOU to cover this tonight when you have a bit of family time. It will only take 5 minutes and may save your or their lives one day. Hopefully that day never comes but you have to be prepared so that when this happens you know what to do and where to go.

I know some of you are fascinated by severe weather and want to learn more. Tomorrow on the blog I’ll remind you of what’s coming up on Saturday in Lawrence concerning spotting severe weather and remaining safe while chasing storms. That is on tap for tomorrow’s blog!

Have a great Tuesday and don’t forget the sirens will be activated today @ about 1:30 PM or so!


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