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Summertime Severe Weather Preparedness
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Spring may be the season for rapidly changing weather, with calm mornings giving way to stormy afternoons, but summertime comes in a very close second. Thunderstorms are dangerous weather events, producing large amounts of rain, multiple lightning strikes, and damaging hail. They can also whip up suddenly with little advance warning. People caught outside may find themselves in considerable danger.
About 300 people are killed in the US every year from lightning strikes and another 80 or so injured. Lightning is particularly dangerous in that it is completely unpredictable and may occur as far as 10 miles outside the defined storm center.
When keeping track of severe weather events, it helps to be familiar with the various types of conditions and terms utilized by meteorologists. Some of the more common terms include:
Severe Thunderstorm – A thunderstorm that produces a tornado, winds of up to 58 mph (50 knots), and/or hail at least 3/4" in diameter. Structural wind damage may imply the occurrence of a severe thunderstorm. A thunderstorm wind equal to or greater than 40 mph (35 knots) and/or hail of at least 1/2" is defined as approaching severe.
Flash Flood – A flood which is caused by heavy or excessive rainfall in a short period of time, generally less than 6 hours. Also, at times a dam failure can cause a flash flood, depending on the type of dam and time period during which the break occurs.
Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. Listen to the media for updates.
Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Tells you there is a possibility of severe thunderstorms in your area likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued.
Flash Flood Watch – Flash flooding is possible in and close to the watch area, but the occurrence is neither certain or imminent. Listen to the National Weather Service, radio or television for information.
Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning – A severe thunderstorm is occurring or will likely occur soon in your area. Warnings are for imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. Seek shelter immediately.
Flash Flood Warning – Flash flooding is in progress, imminent, or highly likely. Seek higher ground immediately or evacuate if directed to do so.
If you are caught in a storm, keep an eye on the sky and remain aware of your conditions. If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. During lighting, stay off home phones and refrain from using electrical appliances.
If rain continues for a period of several hours, be aware of the possibility of a flood. Remember that flash floods can spring up with very little advanced warning.
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