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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 18, 2014

How to prepare for storms

By MEGAN COOPER | May 27, 2014

MT. PLEASANT (GTNS) – The weather is warming up, which means it is time for those severe weather outbreaks.

We’ve all experienced some sort of severe weather already this spring, so it’s time to touch base to be prepared for such events.

According to the website ready.gov, which is found on the Henry County Emergency Management’s website, www.henrycountyiowa.us/offices/ems/index.htm, in order to prepare for a storm, such as a tornado or severe thunderstorm, it is imperative to build an emergency kit.

In the kit, you should have the following items: drinking water, food, medications, blankets, flashlight, battery powered radio, first aid kit, whistle to signal for help, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, dust mask or cotton T-shirt to help filter the air, plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place, wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, can opener for food, diapers and infant formula (if you have an infant), extra clothes and extra batteries.

It is also, according to the website, a good idea to have personal documents like insurance polices, bank account information and identification close at hand in a waterproof and portable container, in case you need these after the event.

Another way to be prepared for impending severe weather is to have a family communication plan in place. According to the website, the plan should include information on where your family spends time, like school, work, daycare, etc. That way, it is easy to locate one another after an event.

Each family member should have a family communication card in their possession. It should list emergency numbers of relatives out of state, because it is easier to get a hold of someone who is not in the disaster zone. Also, have a meeting place designated so everyone knows where to go after the event.

Make sure every member of your family knows the number of the emergency contacts and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. Also, subscribe to alert services because many communities offer systems that will send instant text alerts or e-mails during bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. Sign up by visiting your local emergency management office.

So, now that you know what to do in case of severe weather and how to prepare yourself, how do you know when severe weather is coming?

First off, an easy way to know when severe weather is threatening your area is to listen to your local radio station, listen to NOAA Weather Radio or turn on your television to a weather station. They will keep you up-to-date on all changing weather patterns and make you aware of what is to come.

Another way to know when severe weather threatens, check for these common dangers signs: dark or often greenish sky, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating), loud roar (similar to freight train) or high winds. Stay ready for any sudden changes and be ready to take shelter if needed.

Here are a few tornado and severe thunderstorm facts that you should know from the website ready.gov:

They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.

They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.

The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.

The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.

Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.

Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.

Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.

Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.

Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time

They may occur singly, in clusters or in lines.

Some of the most severe occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.

Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.

About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe – one that produces hail at least an inch or larger in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher or produces a tornado.

Finally, knowing these key terms are important for your safety during severe weather.

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

Stay safe during the stormy weather season and pay close attention to the skies when doing activities outdoors. Listen to your radio and television and stay up-to-date on changing weather patterns. Seek shelter immediately if weather threatens, and be prepared, those are the best ways to stay safe during severe weather.

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