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What to Know About Severe Weather Awareness Week

It's severe weather awareness week! Here is what you should do and know about our upcoming severe weather season.
It's severe weather awareness week and this warmer weather is reminding us that spring is only two weeks away!  While that is exciting, it also means we're entering severe weather season.

"It's been a harsh winter across the Ozarks.  Come springtime we know severe weather comes back to the area," says Steve Runnels, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service.  This means severe thunderstorm watches and warnings will be issued more frequently.

A watch means that conditions are favorable for the severe weather to form.  A warning means that severe weather is occurring or is imminent.  "When we issue a warning, it's the time to go to shelter," emphasizes Runnels.

"Technology today allows the National Weather Service to issue warnings in less than a minute.  That's important with the approach of severe thunderstorms," says Runnels.  As soon as the severe weather watch or warning is issued, it goes out in multiple ways.  The public receives this message via television crawls, NOAA weather radios, and sometimes cell phones.

These severe thunderstorm warning messages go out if a storm contains hail with a diameter of one inch or greater, winds with speeds of 58 miles per hour or greater, or a tornado. 

Here are some torando safety tips:
        -The safest place to be is a safe room.  Otherwise, go to an interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
        -Mobile homes are not safe!  You should get out and go to the nearest building immediately.
        -If you're driving, do not seek shelter under a bridge or overpass.  The narrow passage creates a wind tunnel effect. Wind speeds actually increase!
        -It is best to take shelter in a sturdy building.  If that's not an option, try finding a low-lying ditch to lie in.

Something that typically kills more people in the U.S. Than tornadoes is lightning!  Here are key lightning safety tips:
        -First and foremost, when thunder roars, go indoors! 
        -Picnic shelters and covered porches do not protect from lightning. 
        -The steel frame of a car provides good shelter during lightning. 
        -Also, remember the 30/30 rule: Take shelter if you hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing lightning, and stay inside until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
        -Avoid open areas and stay away from isolated tall objects. 
        -Finally, avoid corded phones, electrical appliances, windows, wiring and water pipes.

Runnels tells us a fact that many are suprised to hear.  "If you throw out the deaths associated with the tornado in Joplin, here in the Ozarks, lightning and flash flooding result in more fatalities," says Runnels.

Flooding is actually the number one cause of deaths associated with thunderstorms.  Here's what to know when it comes to flooding:         -Turn around, don't drown!
        -More than half of all flood-related drownings occur from driving into flood water.
        -Six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet.
        -Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.

There are things we can do this week to prepare.  Purchase a NOAA weather radio.  Also, try to answer this question for yourself: 'Where is the safest place I can quickly access in the event of a tornado warning?'

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