It is the time of year to be thinking about severe weather. The winter months in Alabama make up a secondary tornado season, whereas March, April, and May make up the primary tornado season. Do you know what to do when a tornado warning is issued?
In terms of tornadoes, there are two types of notifications to look out for. A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a tornado to form. A tornado warning occurs when a tornado has actually been spotted, either by a trained storm chaser or by a meteorologist on radar. It is time to take shelter when a warning is issued for your area!
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham offers virtual Skywarn classes for regular citizens who want to be storm spotters. A storm spotter observes the weather from a fixed location (such as home or work) and reports appropriate findings through various means of communication. I took the class several years ago and it was definitely a good reminder of things I’ve learned over the years. (I am the daughter of a meteorologist!) The NWS website states that there will be sign-ups available for this class in March 2022.
Have a Way to Receive Warnings
These days, it is especially important to have more than one source of communication from the NWS. There are more and more articles coming out about how various municipalities are doing away with traditional tornado sirens, and instead they’re urging citizens to rely on other forms of communication. Here are some of those communication options:
- Weather Radio- There was always some sort of weather radio around the house when I was growing up. A weather radio transmits information directly from the NWS in real-time.
- Virtual Assistants- Amazon Alexa in particular gives weather alerts in real-time. In my experience, Alexa and weather radios go off at about the same time.
- Smart Phones- It is important to have your phone charged as much as possible when severe weather is imminent! In case the power goes out, your only door to the outside world will be your phone. Most smart phones have weather alerts built into the operating systems. All you have to do as a smart phone user is to opt-in. There are also numerous apps that can give weather alerts.
- Word of Mouth- If all else fails, it is important to at least have a family member or friend check you if severe weather is imminent. In other cases, you can be a lifeline to a family member or friend if they lose their lines of communication.
Have a Plan
What will you do when severe weather strikes? If you are in a mobile home or a car when a tornado warning happens, it is advised to either find a storm shelter or other kind of shelter from the bad weather.
Many homes have basements that can be used as storm shelters. A bathtub is also a good shelter because of the reinforced walls of bathrooms. In all cases, it is important to stay away from windows and upper floors of buildings.
Head protection is also important. Bicycle helmets or even a comforter and pillows are good choices for this.
Tornado season is certainly a scary time for Alabamaians, but preparation ahead of time can certainly bring some clarity when the inevitable happens!
Stay safe out there, y’all!