Severe Weather Season :: How to Prepare and Make a Plan

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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?

Get Educated!

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!

Do you have a plan for a tornado warning?

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.

In Closing

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!

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Kristina is an Alabama native who came to Birmingham in 2005 for college (has it really been 15 years?!). She had lived in Muscle Shoals her whole life up until that point. After graduating from UAB in 2009 with a degree in journalism and a minor in music, she married Paul in 2011. Paul has worked in the tech industry since 2009. Kristina has had several jobs in the area - everything from banking, veterinary medicine and receptionist. She most recently worked from home as low-level tech support. Kristina and Paul had the biggest surprise of their lives when they went in for the first 8-week ultrasound and found out that they were expecting "spontaneous" twins! Everything was going to change already, but they had to multiply it by two! Two girls, Elle and June, were born in July 2019 and nothing has been the same since. Kristina is now a stay-at-home mom to Elle and June and it has been the most rewarding job of all! Kristina, Paul, Elle and June make home in Alabaster, where you can usually find them on the weekends. They like going around to the things in the area, such as shopping and going on walks in the park. The babies are famous - neither Kristina or Paul can go anywhere alone without people asking about the twins!