Storm Safety

Macy Davis

Blizzards

By definition, a blizzard is an extended, severe snowstorm. In order to qualify as a blizzard, winds have to be at least 35 mph and rage for a longer period of time—at least three hours or more. The amount of snowfall has little to do with a storm qualifying as a snowstorm, but rather the intensity of the wind and length of time. There are two other classifications for blizzards:

–Severe blizzard: winds over 45 mph, temperatures at 10 Farenheit or lower, near zero visibility.

–Ground blizzard: no falling snow, snow from the ground is blown by the strong winds.

Dangers of Blizzards

Blizzards are one of nature’s deadlier storms, as the conditions make travel and movement hazardous. Snowstorms disrupt traffic, but blizzards make any kind of travel nearly impossible. Almost every blizzard results in at least a few deaths, with some of the bigger ones resulting in hundreds of people dying.

Visibility is drastically reduced, in some cases to as little as 3 meters or what is called zero visibility. In a ground blizzard, though no new snow is falling, the snow already on the ground is whipped up and around by the winds to where visibility is also close to zero. Blizzards have been known to come suddenly and while it is possible to be warned in advance, it’s not always possible to be entirely prepared for the intensity of the blizzard. Clearing roads is not possible until after the blizzard has passed and then takes a long time due to the intensity of the build up. The aftermath of the blizzard can be almost as dangerous as the storm itself, as people trapped inside vehicles, unheated buildings, or outdoors take longer to be found and brought to warmth and safety.

How to Be Prepared

Winter storms can range from a moderate snow over a few hours to a blizzard with blinding, wind-driven snow that lasts for several days. Some winter storms are large enough to affect several states, while others affect only a single community. Many winter storms are accompanied by dangerously low temperatures and sometimes by strong winds, icing, sleet and freezing rain. Regardless of the severity of a winter storm, you should be prepared in order to remain safe during these events.


Winter Storm Outlook - Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 2 to 5 days.


Winter Weather Advisory - Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. When caution is used, these situations should not be life threatening.


Winter Storm Watch - Winter storm conditions are possible within the next 36 to 48 hours. People in a watch area should review their winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.


Winter Storm Warning - Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have begun or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions immediately.

Thunderstorms

Thunderstorm is a storm with lightning and thunder. Its produced by a cumulonimbus cloud, usually producing gusty winds, heavy rain and sometimes hail.

The basic ingredients used to make a thunderstorm are moisture, unstable air and lift. You need moisture to form clouds and rain. You need unstable air that is relatively warm and can rise rapidly. Finally, you need lift. This can form from fronts, sea breezes or mountains.

Dangers of Thunderstorms

  • Lightning possibility increases, even if the thunderstorm is not yet to your location.
  • Hard rain can reduce visibility. Combined with wet roads make driving more hazardous.
  • Some thunderstorms can produce tornadoes, given the right conditions.
  • Hail is another potential hazard from thunderstorms.
  • High wind gusts can blow debris, making 'missile hazards'. Also, tree branches can break off and fall on the road or power lines or your car or house, or even you.

How to be Prepared

  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
  • Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Use your battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio for updates from local officials.

Lightning

Lightning is a bright flash of electricity produced by a thunderstorm. All thunderstorms produce lightning and are very dangerous. If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from lightning. Lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes or tornadoes.

Dangers of Lightning

Worldwide, 16 million lightning storms occur every year—2,000 of those storms are happening simultaneously at any given moment—and it's more than just a spectacular natural light show.

Every year, lightning kills roughly 10,000 people around the world (about 90 in the United States) and injures about 100,000 (approximately 400 in the U.S.).

How to stay Safe

A house or other substantial building offers the best protection from lightning. In assessing the safety provided by a particular structure, it is more important to consider what happens if the structure gets struck by lightning, rather than whether the structure will be hit by lightning. For a shelter to provide protection from lightning, it must contain a mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground.

These mechanisms may be on the outside of the structure, may be contained within the walls of the structure, or may be a combination of the two. On the outside, lightning can travel along the outer shell of the building or may follow metal gutters and downspouts to the ground. Inside a structure, lightning can follow conductors such as the electrical wiring, plumbing, and telephone lines to the ground.


Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. Lightning can travel long distances in both phone and electrical wires, particularly in rural areas. Stay away from windows and doors as these can provide the path for a direct strike to enter a home. Do not lie on the concrete floor of a garage as it likely contains a wire mesh. In general, basements are a safe place to go during thunderstorms.

However, there are some things to keep in mind. Avoid contact with concrete walls which may contain metal reinforcing bars. Avoid washers and dryers since they not only have contacts with the plumbing and electrical systems, but also contain an electrical path to the outside through the dryer vent.

Tornadoes

A tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of up to 300 mph. They can destroy large buildings, uproot trees and hurl vehicles hundreds of yards. They can also drive straw into trees. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide to 50 miles long.
Oklahoma Super Tornado - Moore 2013

How to be Prepared

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Hurricanes

A hurricane is a huge storm! It can be up to 600 miles across and have strong winds spiraling inward and upward at speeds of 75 to 200 mph. Each hurricane usually lasts for over a week, moving 10-20 miles per hour over the open ocean. Hurricanes gather heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters. Evaporation from the seawater increases their power. Hurricanes rotate in a counter-clockwise direction around an "eye" in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere. The center of the storm or "eye" is the calmest part. It has only light winds and fair weather. When they come onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and large waves can damage buildings, trees and cars.