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Severe Wx Awareness Info & Safety Tips

Severe weather awareness week continues! Monday evening, I talked about the importance of storm spotters, flash flooding, and lightning. This evening’s topic includes tornadoes and severe t-storms.


This form of severe weather is on about the same level as ice storms when it comes to striking fear in the hearts of residents of the plateau. I say it over and over again….go to the ground level (basement is preferred), away from windows, with as many walls between you and the outside that you can get. Put on that helmet (bicycle helmets work great!). Head trauma is a very common injury with tornadoes and that threat can be reduced with a helmet. I have mine ready every time severe weather threatens. Gotta protect this noggin’!

If you’re going to bed and severe weather may threaten later on into the night, keep that weather radio on and make sure it has fresh batteries. Also, keep a pair of shoes by the bed and a flashlight. People are sometimes suddenly awakened and run for cover….barefoot. If the storm leaves broken glass on the floor, you now have to walk on that with your bare feet. That’s not good and could have easily been prevented.

Keep important papers in a safety deposit box. Scan important pictures and save them in an electronic file. For example, I have a few pictures that are especially precious to me and I have them scanned, just in case something happens to the house. I actually did this with my grandma’s chocolate pie recipe too. I took a picture of her handwritten recipe, complete with the little side notes she wrote in, and I have that saved on a drive. She always made those pies for me as rewards, comfort, or just to do so and I miss that so much. Disaster causes enough pain without us losing the most precious of possessions.

Getting to an interior room is key to staying alive. You may get hurt, but if you have that helmet on and any cushioning you can find (ie mattresses, pillows, etc), you should be fine. Get out of mobile homes. Get out of mobile homes. Get out of mobile homes. I don’t care if you have to get out of the mobile home and under the porch (people have survived doing that). That home is liable to go flying and you don’t want to be a part of that ride.

Get out of the car. Just get out of the car. Get into a sturdier structure. If you absolutely cannot get out of the car, make sure your seatbelt is on and then lie as flat as you can in the car. What an awful situation you find yourself in, but that’s now your best actions for survival. If only you had paid attention to the weather and stayed off the road in the first place……..

Don’t crack the windows in your home. You’re wasting your time.

Be careful with basements. Get in a corner and under a sturdy table. If the house collapses, it may come on into the basement (we see that happen from time to time). While a basement is good, you still need to take other actions.

The strongest tornadoes on the plateau have been F/EF-4s. That’s rough. Thankfully, Tennessee has only had one EF-5 and that was on April 16, 1998 in southern Middle Tennessee and over open farmland. It plowed the ground like a tractor. Farther south, in northern Mississippi, we had an EF-5 tornado that once removed 18 inches of soil and carried it away. That same twister also threw a truck, upside down, over the top of a water tower (Smithville, Mississippi, April 27, 2011).

Thankfully, EF-5s are extremely rare. A great majority of Tennessee tornadoes are rather weak and short-lived.

The sound of a tornado varies between tornadoes. The ones I’ve heard sounded like a thousand waterfalls. It would have been a relaxing sound had I not known it was deadly winds. ha We call this the “waterfall effect,” since most tornadoes sound that way. I’ve never figured out why people say a tornados sounds like a freight train? Fellow chaser friends of mine wonder the same thing.

Severe Thunderstorms

Severe thunderstorms can be just as destructive as many tornadoes, yet people never take a severe thunderstorm warning as seriously as they do a tornado warning. The winds of a severe thunderstorm can roar just like a tornado and few people can be convinced that the winds of a severe thunderstorm weren’t a tornado. That’s always been odd to me. It’s almost as if some people become offended if you tell them it was straight-line winds. Odd, right? (ha)

Starting this year, the NWS will begin using different wording for storms with an especially high risk of damaging, non-tornadic winds. Squall lines would be an example of this. Last summer, a squall line called a derecho raced across Iowa. By the time the line of storms had left the state, it literally looked like a hurricane had hit the state. In fact, they’re still recovering from that. The damage was extreme in many locations and it was all straight-line winds.

I often hear people say, “It was a tornado because it roared like one.” So, are straight-line winds quiet? High wind roars and sounds scary, whether it’s going around in a circle or blowing straight ahead.

Take cover from severe storms as you would a tornado. Interior room, away from windows, many walls between you and the storm. Get that helmet on.

Watches and Warnings

A watch means to be looking (watching) for signs of bad weather. A warning means to be hiding. A watch can last for hours, while warnings last minutes.

When a warning is issued, take cover. Make yourself a kit when a watch is issued. Get a flashlight, a bottle or two of water, your weather radio, something for the kids to do during the warning to distract, some snacks to stress eat (ha), and anything else that makes ya feel better. Throw a few things in a kit and know where it’s at so you can quickly grab it. This is something you don’t have to do right now, but it’s something you can work on when a watch is issued. You can grab it and go when a warning is issued.

Keep in mind that if you’re following Meteorologist Mark I always give an ALL – CLEAR. I also let you know when a warning has ended and you can come out of hiding. The quicker you know that warning is over, the quicker your nerves can be relaxing.

Finally, get a weather radio. You can look to me for a forecast but I want you to rely on the NWS for warnings. I can’t be liable for that through my blog. I can give you all kinds of information about the storm but I can’t issue warnings. ONLY the NWS can do that.

Final Words

The spring severe weather season is here and being prepared is key to being safe and less scared. The more prepared you are, the less scared you are.

If I had a final piece of advice it would be to talk to your family right now about what you will do when a warning is issued. If you’re separated, make sure you have a way of getting in touch, especially if cell service goes down. I’ll remind you of a lot of this when watches are issued. Still, just take a minute to think about it now.

Pictured below is the weather radio I highly recommend. You can shop around for this model and sometimes find it cheaper. It is also at Walmart in the electronics section. You can also find it on Amazon (just search Midland weather radio).

Thank you all so much for trusting me with your weather. It’s a responsibility I never take lightly and it’s a pleasure to be your weather guy! šŸ™‚

3 thoughts on “Severe Wx Awareness Info & Safety Tips

  1. Thanks, Mark!

  2. I have a question for you, myself and many of my neighbors have chosen live in converted barn sheds or tiny houses, we don’t have storm shelters where is the best place to stay safe living in this situation during a severe weather event?

    1. That’s a tough one. I would just have to recommend that you have a nearby home or structure that could offer more protection. You may even consider some of the area shelters when the threat for severe weather is especially high. If we expect a major tornado outbreak or significant and widespread straight-line winds, which is rare, I would strongly consider staying at a shelter during the highest threat time. Those threat times are rarely more than a couple of hours. I’ve heard of several churches who offer their basements for such times. In the future, you might consider a community storm cellar for you and your neighbors. Those can be very handy! I hope this helps!

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