By: Melissa Jordan
March 1-7 is Severe Weather Awareness week with the annual Statewide Tornado Drill in Ohio on March 4th at 9:50 AM. While it may seem like we will never get out of the winter temperatures and all of this snow, spring is coming! BIG Agency wants to keep your family safe, so I have compiled some weather terminology, tips to be safe in severe weather, and some general information you just might find interesting!
During severe weather you may hear terms like Watch, Warning, or Advisory. The National Weather Service (NWS) is responsible for issuing severe weather watches, warnings and advisories to alert the public when dangerous weather conditions are expected. Be sure to know your terms before severe weather hits:
Watch – A weather watch means there is the potential or conditions exist for a dangerous weather event.
Warning – A weather warning means that a dangerous weather event is imminent. Immediate action must be taken to protect life and property.
Advisory – A weather advisory means weather conditions that are less serious than a warning are imminent. These events may cause a significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to a situation that may be threatening to life and property.
Let’s break down for you what different kinds of watches, warnings, and advisories mean:
Flood/Flash Flood Watch – A flood watch or a flash flood watch can be issued for potential flooding. A flash flood watch is issued for the potential of rapid flooding that is usually caused from torrential downpours, dam breaks or the breakup of ice jams. A flood watch may be issued when the onset of flooding is much slower, usually greater than six hours. The body of the watch describes the cause of the potential flooding and some possible results if flooding were to materialize. The watches are usually issued up to 12 hours prior to the possible flood event.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch – A severe thunderstorm watch outlines an area where hail of 1 inch in diameter or larger, and/or damaging thunderstorm winds are expected to occur. Tornadoes may be possible.
Tornado Watch – A tornado watch outlines an area where conditions are favorable for the development of tornados in and close to the watch area. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules and be prepared to move a place of safety if threatening weather approaches.
Normally, a warning is more severe than a watch. There is one watch in particular you do not want to ignore. Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS) Watch – “Particularly Dangerous Situation” is used in rare situations when long-lived, strong and violent tornadoes are possible. This enhanced wording may also accompany severe thunderstorm watches for exceptionally intense and well organized convection wind storms. PDS watches are issued when the likelihood of significant events is boosted by very volatile atmospheric conditions.
In the case of a warning, you need to take action immediately. Here are some examples of warnings and what to do in case of one:
Flash Flood Warning – A flash flood warning signifies a short duration of intense or rapid flooding of counties, communities, streams, or urban areas. Flash floods may result from torrential downpours, dam breaks, or the breakup of ice jams.
Action: Take action immediately – move to higher ground, do not drive through flooded roadways.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning – A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when large hail or damaging wind is occurring or imminent. Severe thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes with little or no advance warning. Severe thunderstorms will also produce frequent and dangerous lightning and occasionally torrential rainfall.
Action: Seek safe shelter immediately. Criteria: Hail – 1″ or larger; Wind – 58 mph or greater.
Tornado Warning – A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is imminent or occurring. The warning may be issued when a tornado is either indicated by Doppler radar or sighted by trained spotters.
Action: Seek shelter immediately, preferably below ground in a substantial building.
and one warning just to warm you up:
Excessive Heat Warning – An excessive heat warning is issued when heat indexes will generally reach 105 degrees or higher for a period of two hours or more.
There are also several different terms for different types of weather. Did you know a funnel cloud doesn’t touch the ground, but a tornado does?
A condensation funnel extending from the base of a towering cumulus cloud associated with a rotating column of air that is not in contact with the ground – and hence, different from a tornado. A condensation funnel is a tornado, not a funnel cloud if
a.) it is in contact with the ground;
b.) a debris cloud or dust whirl is visible beneath it.
A violently rotating column of air that comes in contact with the ground, usually, descending from the base of a thunderstorm. In Ohio, many tornadoes are obscured by hills, trees or heavy rain.
During a tornado warning, remember to DUCK!
D – Go DOWN to the lowest level
U – Get UNDER something
C – COVER your head
K – KEEP in shelter until the storm has passed
Never take shelter under a highway overpass or bridge!
Highway overpasses make inadequate tornado shelters because:
- Flying debris become dangerous missiles in the tornado airflow
- By climbing up higher under an overpass, people will be exposed to higher wind speeds and more flying debris
- The narrow passage underneath an overpass could cause an increase in the wind speed under the bridge
- Most overpasses don’t have girders or support beams for handholds
- If an overpass is directly in the path of a tornado, the wind could change direction by nearly 180 degrees as the vortex passes
Take shelter elsewhere:
- The safest place to be during a tornado is a basement. If the building has no basement or cellar, go to a small room (a bathroom or closet) on the lowest level of the structure, away from windows and as close to the center of the building as possible.
- Be aware of emergency shelter plans in stores, offices and schools. If no specific shelter has been identified, move to the building’s lowest level. Try to avoid areas with large glass windows, large rooms and wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.
- If you’re outside or in a mobile home, find shelter immediately by going to the lowest level of a nearby sturdy building. Sturdy buildings are the safest structures to be in when tornadoes threaten. Winds from tornadoes can blow large objects, including cars and mobile homes, hundreds of feet away.
- If you cannot quickly get to a shelter, get into your vehicle, buckle your seatbelt and try to drive to the nearest sturdy shelter.
- If you experience flying debris while driving, pull over and park. Choose to either stay in your vehicle, stay buckled up, duck down below the windows and cover your head with your hands, or find a depression or ditch, exit your vehicle and use your arms and hands to protect your head.
Make sure you make a plan with your entire family of what to do in case of an emergency! Have an exit plan, a way to contact one another in case of an emergency, and a meeting place in case your family is separated during a severe weather outbreak.
Have you ever wondered how they differentiate between a Severe Thunderstorm and a regular one? It’s all in the wind and hail!
A local storm produced by a cumulonimbus cloud, and accompanied by thunder and lightning, strong wind gusts, heavy rain and sometimes hail. A cumulonimbus cloud is a cauliflower-shaped cloud that usually has a height taller than or equal to its width.
A thunderstorm producing a tornado and/or, damaging winds of 58 mph or higher, and/or hail 1 inch in diameter or larger. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm.
Always be aware of your surroundings this time of year and never go under a tree during a storm. While most lightning casualties occur at the beginning of an approaching storm, a significant number of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed. If thunder is heard, then the storm is close enough for a lightning strike. It is important to seek safe shelter immediately.
Did you know? The sound of thunder travels about one mile every 5 seconds. If you count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder, and divide by 5, you get the number of miles the lightning is from you (10 seconds is 2 miles)
For more exciting weather information, visit http://www.weathersafety.ohio.gov/