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Severe Wx Awareness Week: Info & Safety tips

Good evening, everyone. This week is a week the National Weather Service (NWS) sets aside to educate the public on severe weather and how to come through it unharmed. Each day has a different topic. I will do a summary of Sunday – Tuesday’s topics here in this post. On Wednesday evening, I’ll do a summary of the topics for Wednesday – Friday. The final topic of the week is on social media and I’ll discuss that on Saturday in a post of its own.

Severe weather season is considered to be the months of March, April and May for our region, though severe can and does occur any time of the year. A secondary peak to our severe weather season often comes in November, as seasons change once again.

Sunday’s topic: Storm Spotters

Storm spotters are folks who take a short class by the NWS to learn how to identify different types of severe weather and how to report it. Among the things spotters are taught include how to identify possible tornado-producing clouds from clouds that are just dark and spooky looking. Classes are offered in person and online. Storm spotter class info can be found here The next class is Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

We need storm spotters to tell us what’s going on. Spotters help verify what radar is telling us and sometimes they can tell us what radar is NOT telling us!

Monday’s topic: Flooding and flash flooding

I did my Masters thesis on flooding. Nothing is more powerful than moving water. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how many times we tell people NOT to drive across flooded roadways, they will still drive across flooded roadways. Heck, some people even drive around barricades to drive through flood waters! You may have no idea how deep that water is or how swiftly the water is moving until it is far too late. There may not even be a road there anymore! You may think the muddy water is just a few inches deep, but the fact is that the road may be gone and the water may be feet deep.

Flash flooding occurs in minutes, usually during heavy downpours of rain. “Regular” flooding occurs more slowly and usually occurs when rain has fallen over a long period of time on saturated soils. We often refer to rivers and streams when talking about flooding.

If you live near a flood-prone stream, always be aware of how much rainfall is in the forecast, especially in the spring. Those spring rains can send streams out of their banks.

While we normally don’t worry too much about flooding on the plateau, we do have people who lose their lives in floods from time to time, especially with flooding rivers. Also, keep in mind that sometimes that rain comes down so hard and fast that localized flooding can become deadly with short notice. That most often happens with summer downpours.

Nationally, flooding is the number one severe weather-related killer. Number one. More people die in flooding than in any other form of severe weather. Don’t be a statistic. Be smart.

Tuesday’s topic: Lightning

No one has ever survived a direct hit by lightning. It’s not possible. People have, however, survived indirect hits by lightning. Let me explain.

One lightning bolt contains about a billion volts of electricity. Your 60 watt light bulb has about 12 volts. A lightning strike is also about 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hotter than the surface of the Sun. We fill very sick when our temperature gets over 100 degrees. Have I made my point?

Don’t get struck by lightning. Stay away from the tallest objects. A lightning strike results from the charge difference between the base of a cloud and the ground. That difference builds up so much that a lightning strike is necessary to equalize the charge (the whole point of weather is to balance nature). Because air is a poor conductor of electricity, the lightning needs the shortest distance to make that connection. That is NOT to say lightning always strikes the tallest objects, it’s just the most common behavior it exhibits. Sometimes it strikes the shorter objects.

Other dangerous activities to forego when lightning is nearby include fishing, either on the shore of a beach or out in a boat. Both of those fishing methods expose you to the open sky. Horseback riding puts you higher up and in more danger, as well. And, of course, surely we all know by now to get off the golf course. Swinging a metal pole in the air during a thunderstorm is…..well….shall I say foolish? (ha) I would probably discourage skydiving and hang gliding in a thunderstorm too, but surely I don’t have to say this? (ha)

If you’re close enough to hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck. It’s true. Lightning can travel tens of miles from a thunderstorm.

Some research on lightning deaths has suggested that many lightning deaths are the result of a storm’s first flash. Perhaps there was no “warning” thunder because that person was the first strike. This is why I tell people to go ahead and move indoors if you see dark clouds gathering.

Talking on a cell phone indoors during a thunderstorm is perfectly safe, so long as it isn’t plugged into an outlet. A corded phone (do those still exist? ha) is a big no-no. Also, if you still have a corded phone I’m kinda proud of ya. A preserver of history, you are. 🙂

You are safe in a car but it has nothing to do with the tires. It has everything to do with the metal sheath around you (Faraday Effect). The lightning deflects away from you because of the metal “bubble” you’re in……well, unless you’re in contact with anything metal in the car, at which point at least some of the electricity would then flow to you. Often times, the lightning will blow out the tires and destroy any electronic equipment in the car.

The best place to be is inside a building, away from windows and electronics.

Final Words

I hope this helps you and I hope you’ve learned something! I’ll have info on the rest of the week’s topics in a special Wednesday evening post!

You all take care and have a good night!

6 thoughts on “Severe Wx Awareness Week: Info & Safety tips

  1. Very interesting, Mark. As a teenager, because of an approaching storm, I was hurrying back to our barn from fieldwork, driving a small Ford Ferguson tractor. It had rubber tires but a steel steering wheel. Lightning struck in a field to my right and I felt a shock in both hands similar to that of an electric fence shock. God obviously wasn’t ready to take me to be with Him that day since I’m still here and am nearly 78.

    1. Very interesting, Lynn! And I’m so glad the Good Lord let ya stay a while longer!

  2. Do I have to take a Basic Skywarn class before I can take the Advanced class?

    1. Most of the time, they’re offered together. As far as I know, there’s no particular order that you have to take them, though.

  3. We actually have 2 corded phones leftover from when my husband worked from home. LOL! Thank you for all this great information. I love reading your posts.

    1. I love it! lol I miss talking on the corded phones. Good memories. ha

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