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Special Sunday Afternoon Post: Preparing for severe storms

As many of you saw in this morning’s blog post, we have a threat for severe storms on Wednesday. This will not be the last threat of the spring season, that is for sure. It’s a situation I’m monitoring very closely, as I do all severe weather threats. The threat Wednesday will likely be worse to our south, across Mississippi and Alabama, but we are certainly not completely removed from that threat. To make matters a bit more concerning, it looks like our threat will come during the night.

I just received a notification from the Nashville NWS office that some of our storms on Monday could be on the strong side, as well. That threat, however, is expected to be much lower than the threat for Wednesday. Still, it’s just another reminder of the season that we are in.

So, I thought I would remind you of things you need to do before storms even threaten, whether that threat comes Wednesday or at any point this spring.

  1. Get a weather radio. Find one at If you need help setting it up just let me know. These radios are great for waking you up at night, when so many of our storms occur. Use my blog for knowing the forecast. Use the weather radio for getting your warnings. Only the NWS can issue warnings that let you know severe weather is occurring.
  2. Have multiple ways to get severe weather warnings. Have a weather radio but then have another way to get warnings too. Some recommended apps include the Red Cross tornado app, Baron Critical Weather, or even the Knoxville Weather-WATE app. Have a family member call you if they hear of bad weather. Keep the tv/radio on during threatening weather. I recommend at least two different ways to get a warning.
  3. Have a helmet. Head injuries are some of the most common and severe of storm injuries. The good news? Many of those injuries could have been prevented with a helmet. Bike, football, Four-wheeler….any good helmet will do! I like the one found here Know where that helmet is before the storm and don’t be trying to find it during the storm.
  4. Have a plan. Where will you take cover? Does your family know what to do? Practice that plan, just to be sure. If you’re separated, do you have a way to get in touch with family in case cell service fails? Is there a meeting place you have agreed upon in case communication fails?

Remember, get to the lowest level of the house. Get to the center of that lowest level. Put as many walls as you can between you and the outside. The goal is to stay out of flying debris. Stay away from windows. Use mattresses, pillows, etc to add cushion from any flying debris. Keep your shoes on. If a window breaks you’ll have broken glass that you don’t want to be walking on in bare feet. That thought makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Abandon mobile homes and trailers. Find more substantial shelter. Chat with a neighbor who has a sturdier shelter and ask if you can come over if a warning is issued. Have that conversation now. Don’t wait until you’re panicking and banging on their door in the middle of a terrible storm (worse, doing this in the middle of the night). Does a local church offer sheltering options? Find out! Keep in mind that warnings only last about half an hour or so, so I’m not talking about something you would be doing for hours. Just figure out a safe shelter that’s nearby that you can stay in until the storm has passed over.

5. Where are your important documents? After a storm in which a home is damaged, people are often left wondering where the car titles are? Where are those mortgage papers? Social security cards, birth certificates, insurance papers, and so on. Buy a small plastic tote or safe to put those papers in. Better yet, put them in a safety deposit box at the bank. One less worry on your post-storm checklist (and that’s a BIG worry to eliminate!).

6. Are you prepared for power outages? We’ve been through this drill a few times this winter, but check the generator, check back-up power supplies, and so on. I get a lot of good use out of my portable charger. I use it to charge my cell phone when the power is out. You can find the one I have at They make great gifts, too! I highly recommend these.

7. A whistle. This is a newer idea but one that I think very highly of. Wear a whistle around your neck. That way, if you are difficult to find after the storm, you can blow the whistle to alert someone to your location. It can even help family members find you, should you become separated during the storm. This is especially helpful for folks who take cover in basements and then can’t get the door open to get out. If you take cover in your home but then you are hidden under debris, you can blow the whistle to let rescuers know where to locate you quickly. That saves precious time and could even save your life. The good thing about whistles is that they are a very inexpensive way to add just a little bit more to your safety plan…and they could make a BIG impact. Order enough for the whole family with this package of one dozen at I like that these are easy-to-see neon colors.

8. Distractions for you and/or the kids. Have a notepad with a pen. Have some playing cards. Do something that keeps minds off the weather once you’re in shelter.

9. Have a storm kit. This is something every home should have. A plastic container (waterproof) that contains some bandages, antiseptic (ie. hydrogen peroxide), Tylenol, wet wipes, antibacterial wipes, important medications, and so on). Take it with you to your shelter area.

10. Review severe weather terminology. A watch means conditions are favorable for severe weather. You’re watching the weather and the sky for signs of bad weather. A warning means you need to take cover. Please see diagram below.

I hope this helps! As we get closer to any severe weather event, you can count on me to remind you of things you need to do. Having this list that I’ve given you today will help you have a head start on preparation. Being prepared goes a long way in making folks less scared. There’s nothing worse than having a bad storm come upon you and you find yourself having no idea what you’re supposed to do. Don’t be that person.

Go ahead an order the things you need today, so that you’ll have them when you need them. Or, get to a store that you know has these things and get them there. For me, it’s always easier to just order stuff and have it come to me.

You all take care and I’ll keep you posted on everything you need to know. Tell your friends about Meteorologist Mark, as well. Together we’ll be prepared for whatever comes our way!

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