SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Winter is nearly over as we head into March. But as Spring grows closer and closer, it’s not all April showers and May flowers. Here in the Ozarks, it’s also severe weather season.
Our Meteorologist Elisa Raffa talked with National Weather Service (NWS) Senior Meteorologist Doug Cramer about why Severe Weather Awareness Week is essential.
“Our severe weather season, the main severe weather season, is from about mid-March through May, so it’s to remind people that severe weather season is coming,” says Cramer.
He also says this week serves as a reminder for schools and businesses to test their severe weather plans.
The two meteorologists talk about a variety of severe weather to be prepared for, below are some tips for tornadoes to flooding.
The first thing you need to know when it comes to tornadoes is the difference between a watch and a warning.
A tornado watch indicates there is a risk of hazardous weather. A tornado warning means a tornado is likely to touch down or has touched down.
“The key here is to have multiple ways to get watches and warnings, and then understand what that means for you,” says Cramer.
Cramer says the safest place to be during a tornado is in a low, central area in your home or business.
Tornadoes on an EF scale – it stands for Enhanced Fujita after the scientist who coined the term. It uses the damage left behind to estimate wind speeds of the tornado.
- EF-0 Weak, 65-86 mph
- EF-1 Moderate, 86-110 mph
- EF-2 Significant, 111-135mph
- EF-3 Severe, 136-165 mph
- EF-4 Devastating, 166-200 mph
- EF-5 Catastrophic, >200 mph
By month, tornadoes are most common during the spring season from March through May, but they can happen any time of the year.
When a tornado warning is issued, get into the lowest level or interior room in your home. Stay away from windows and evacuate mobile homes.
Make sure you have more than one way to get a warning. Sirens are not enough.
Thunderstorms and Lightning
Lightning occurs in every single thunderstorm, even those that are not warned severe, so every thunderstorm is hazardous.
Even with those one-in-a-million chances of getting struck, an average of 45 people a year die due to lightning. In 2018, 4 people died from lightning in both Missouri and Arkansas.
Lightning is HOT, at 50,000 degrees F, it is hotter than the surface of the sun. That’s why it is so hazardous.
When thunder roars, go indoors! A car is a safe place to be during lightning, but not because of the rubber tires. It’s safe because of the metal roof and doors. Electricity will travel through metal to the ground, so don’t touch the doors!
You also never want to touch metal fences during lightning. Avoid trees; lightning is attracted to tall objects. When you’re inside, stay away from windows, flying debris can hurt you. Stay off corded phones; cell phones are safe. Do not touch electrical equipment that is plugged into the wall or plumbing.
Each year more deaths occur due to flooding than any other thunderstorm related hazard, including tornados.
Cramer says flooding will be a high risk this weather season.
“The one thing that sticks out this year Elisa is, we’ve had a very wet winter, so our soil conditions are very saturated,” says Cramer.
He says since we don’t have a lot of vegetation right now to soak up that excess water, more frequent flooding can be an issue.
Cramer says that yes, turn around don’t drown typically works, that is a harder rule to go by when driving at night.
“When I go and talk to swift water rescue teams and some of these fire chiefs that work some of these active flash flooding events, they tell us that, “you know a lot of times they happen at night, they don’t actually see that water” so they don’t have that opportunity to see it and turn around and don’t drown,” says Cramer.
Elisa Raffa points out that just the smallest amount of water can take you downstream.
During a Flash Flood Warning, you should get to higher ground, especially if you live in a flood-prone or low-lying area. Evacuate if officials are telling you to do so.
The Springfield- Greene County Office of Emergency Management is also participating in Severe Weather Awareness Week and will be providing tips daily throughout the week.
- Monday, March 2 – Preparedness
- Tuesday, March 3 – Tornado Safety
- Wednesday, March 4 – Flash Flood Safety
- Thursday, March 5 – Severe Thunderstorm Day
- Friday, March 6 – Communication/NOAA Weather Radio
Greene County will also be participating in a statewide tornado drill will be held on Tuesday, March 3 at 10 a.m.
For more information on Severe Weather Awareness Week, click here.