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What To Do During Severe Weather Emergencies (Part 1)

In many cases of severe weather, you typically have ample warning time to prepare for any storms or other hazardous conditions that may arise. This is not always the case, however, and in those instances where the weather turns ugly in a hurry, you need to be prepared to respond accordingly. In emergency situations it is very important that you think clearly and react rapidly.

When an emergency occurs, don’t panic, but rather listen for details through the Emergency Alert System (which you have no doubt heard tested numerous times while listening to the radio or watching TV).  Different emergency scenarios call for different responses. Here are a few:

Thunderstorms produce many different severe weather scenarios, such as torrential rains, dangerous lightning, destructive winds, and large, damaging hail. A severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are favorable for a thunderstorm to occur, while a severe thunderstorm warning means that a storm is on the ground and you should seek shelter immediately.

If you are caught outside during a storm, seek shelter in a building, car, or bus. If you are in the woods, take refuge in a low area under small trees. If swimming or boating, get off the water as soon as you can, and if in an open area, head for the nearest low ground such as a valley or ravine, or crouch down to become less of a lightning rod. Golfers are advised to abandon their game and get indoors.

Under no circumstances should you touch or handle metallic objects such as bicycles, fences, golf clubs, and equipment like lawnmowers, and avoid trees, poles, clotheslines, overhead wires, metal pipes, and bodies of water.  If you are in a group, do not huddle, but rather spread yourselves out. Refrain from using the telephone except in an emergency, and do not take a shower or bath while the storm is going on.

Tornadoes often occur as a result of thunderstorms, and can produce spiraling high speed winds, completely capable of relocating a car or even a home. Tornadoes are accompanied by hail, severe storms, and wind. The noise of a tornado is like a roaring sound, much like an oncoming train. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes, while a tornado warning means that a twister has been spotted on the ground and you should seek immediate shelter.

If you spot a tornado, stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Protect your head from flying debris. If you are indoors, go to a basement or the lowest possible level of the structure. Take shaleter in closets, bathrooms, or interior walls, away from the windows. Get under something sturdy or lie in the bathtub and cover yourself with a blanket.

In public buildings, go to interior rooms or hallways on the lowest floor you can reach. In vehicles or mobile homes, move to a substantial structure. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert with your hands covering your head and neck.

We will look at more severe weather scenarios in Part 2.

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