April 2016 Feature Story: Severe Weather Season is Approaching!

Welcome to March and the beautiful but teasing first taste of warmth that has arrived with it!

As we progress through the next few months we will be entering the height of severe storm season locally. The months of April and May bring the highest number of tornadoes climatologically speaking dating back to 1989, though June isn’t too far behind in counts. Now is a good time to review some of the alerts and warnings that we are likely to experience in the months to come.

Our society is quickly changing with adapting technology and today’s cellular phones (smartphones especially) are well equipped for delivering lifesaving information almost immediately. If you have a smartphone make sure that you have enabled the Emergency Alerts notifications. Often times a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and Tornado Warming will be broadcast through this feature. A NOAA weather radio is also handy for this same idea as well!

A Severe Thunderstorm WATCH means conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area. Be prepared to possibly seek shelter and take action while the watch is in progress. A Severe thunderstorm is defined as a storm containing hail 1” or greater in diameter and/or winds of 58 MPH or greater.

A Severe Thunderstorm WARNING means a severe thunderstorm is currently or is capable of producing the above hazards is likely to occur over the warned area. It is also important to note that severe thunderstorms can occasionally produce tornadoes as well.

A Tornado WATCH means conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and around the watch area. Be prepared to take shelter immediately should a warning be issued.

A Tornado WARNING means either a) Doppler Radar has indicated rotation is present and a tornado may form at any time, or b) Storm Spotters on the ground have visually confirmed a tornado is in progress. Seek shelter immediately in the lowest level of the structure or an interior room putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible.

One of the most concerning things about severe weather in the meteorological community is the lack of response from the public. Several studies have shown that often times people wait until it is too late to seek shelter. If a warning is issued for your area do not wait until the tornado is knocking on your doorstep before you take action. Often times tornadoes can become hidden within areas of heavy rain and cannot be easily seen.