Preparing for severe weather strikes

Friday, February 27, 2009

Every year, many people are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes and severe thunderstorms -- even when they have advance warning.

Any time there is threatening weather, you need to seek shelter before it arrives. The American Red Cross offers suggestions of things to do before severe weather hits.

Develop a plan for yourself and family that includes what to do if you are at home, work, school or outdoors.

Pick a couple of places to meet in case you are not home when a disaster strikes. Choose one near your home and one away from your neighborhood.

Identify an out-of-state friend as your family contact in case you get separated.

Identify a safe room or place for your family to take shelter. Have safety drills and know what county and township you live in. The National Weather Service issues severe storm warnings by county.

Keep a highway map nearby so you can follow storm movements. Listen to the radio or television for weather alerts.

Prepare a disaster kit to keep on hand. It should include a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won't spoil; one change of clothing and footwear per person; one blanket or sleeping bag per person; a first aid kit, including prescription medicines, emergency tools, portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries.

It's also good to have a spare set of car and house keys and a credit card or cash. Store these in a duffle bag or other easy to carry container. Keep a smaller kit in your car trunk. Replace stored water, food and batteries every six months.

If you are going outside for an extended period, check the weather before leaving and watch for signs of approaching storms.

Should you get caught outside in a storm with lightning, move to a building or car. Stay away from isolated trees or tall objects. Avoid touching any metal if you are inside a car.

If there is no shelter nearby, find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles. Make sure it isn't prone to flooding. If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.

Should you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ear and your head between your knees. Make yourself as small a target as possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie down.

If a tornado warning is issued, move to a shelter such as a basement. If no underground shelter is available, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a study piece of furniture. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.

Stay away from windows. Get out of your automobile. If you are caught in a vehicle, lie flat in a ditch or depression. Do not go under culverts or bridges.

Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Stay alert for the signs of an approaching tornado such as a dark, often greenish sky, large hail or a loud roar similar to a freight train.

Be aware of flying debris. This causes the most fatalities and injuries.

Should a flood occur, stay away from high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines or culverts. Avoid walking or driving in flood waters. If you come upon floodwaters, stop and turn around. Climb to higher ground.

Information and planning tips for safety are available at and at

Weather information can be found on the Internet at or

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