Summer Weather Readiness PlanWise Blog Team
Released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz takes place in a sepia-toned, tornado-ridden Kansas in the early 1900s. Kansas is very prone to tornadoes and 11 years before the movie was released, a tornado in that state plucked the feathers right off some chickens. For those who have never experienced a tornado firsthand, the media may be your only reference point. This can run the gamut from fictionalized movies like The Wizard of Oz and Twister—to news accounts that remind us that tornadoes are a violent and often tragic force of nature. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes tend to occur more frequently in the late spring and summer.
The Difference between a Tornado Watch and Warning
A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for severe storms to produce a tornado. A tornado warning is more serious and means that a tornado has been spotted or is imminent based on radar. That same differentiation also holds true for severe thunderstorms.
Tornado Safety Tips
The first step is to recognize warning signs, which include strong winds with cloud-base rotation, whirling dust and debris, hail and/or heavy rain, and a loud rumble or roar that sounds similar to a moving train. If it is nighttime, look for bright blue- or green-colored flashes near the ground. If a loved one is in a nursing home, you should ask the facility what procedures they have in place in case of weather emergencies.
- For severe weather of any kind, you should be aware of your local community’s emergency warning system.
- Stay low to or below the ground in an interior space away from windows and cover your head with your hands and arms.
- Mobile homes and dwellings without basements or foundations are not a safe place to be in a tornado or severe thunderstorm. If your community does not have a storm shelter, seek a sturdy building nearby.
- If there is no time to seek out adequate shelter, find a closet or climb into the bathtub and cover yourself with some sort of thick padding, such as a mattress or blankets.
- If you live in a house with a finished basement, corner rooms or bathrooms are the best places to stay. It is better to have more concrete walls or plumbing surrounding you, as this reduces the risk of your home caving in on you and better protects you from flying debris.
- If you are in a high-rise building, go to the lowest level or the most interior part of the building you can find. Avoid elevators and stay away from windows.
- Since tornadoes generally track from southwest to northeast or from west to east, if you are in a car, drive at a right angle to the storm and get a considerable distance away.
Thunderstorm Safety Tips
Severe thunderstorms are far more prevalent in some regions of the U.S. than tornadoes, but can also wreak considerable havoc. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people annually than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.
- Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm—away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail.
- Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.
- Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by trimming them and removing damaged branches regularly.
- If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
- Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
- Do not take a bath, shower, or use plumbing.
- Keep candles and battery-powered flashlights on hand for power outages.
General Summer Safety Tips
While you may not experience severe weather during the summer, there is a good chance you will be outside at some point and exposed to the elements. Here are a few tips:
- Apply about one ounce of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50, about 15 minutes before going outdoors, but remember to reapply every two hours Also wear a wide brim hat and sunglasses if you are gardening or sunbathing.
- If you are engaging in any physical activity, whether gardening or exercise, make sure you properly hydrate. Sports drinks with electrolytes are especially helpful if you are exercising for at least an hour.
- Use insect repellents whenever you go outdoors.