With the 2017 severe weather season for tornadoes, damaging wind, and hail off to a roaring start, severe weather safety becomes more important than ever.  Especially heading into the height of the severe weather season; April, May, June, and July.

The total number of Tornado Storm Reports in 2017 have been close to twice annual trend, with the height of the season approaching in May.

Small safety tips can help everyday people protect themselves and their property.  Unfortunately there are also numerous myths that can actually put citizens in more danger.  The following breaks down the biggest facts or myths in flooding, damaging wind, and tornadoes, and how knowing a few simple facts could save your life.

 

If my vehicle has four-wheel drive, it’s OK to drive through a flooded roadway.

Fiction.  Flooding is one of the leading causes of weather related fatalities in the United States.  And while the water may not appear menacing, hidden dangers like washed out roadways endanger motorists every year.  Moving water becomes an even greater threat, as only 6 inches of moving water can sweep a person off their feet.  The bottom line, turn around, don’t drown.

“Water may be deeper than it appears and can hide many hazards (i.e. sharp objects, washed out road surfaces, electrical wires, chemicals, etc). A vehicle caught in swiftly moving water can be swept away in a matter of seconds.” National Weather Service

Straight line winds can be just as damaging as the winds from a tornado.

Fact.  Straight line winds, also called downbursts, are areas of intense winds produced by the outflow of a thunderstorm.  They can extend over areas typically up to a mile wide, and the damage is similar to that of a tornado.  The biggest difference is the direction that the debris scatters, with one direction for straight line winds, and in all directions for tornadoes.

An aerial photo from the National Weather Service is a perfect display of straight line wind damage. As the trees have fallen in the same direction as the wind.

An overpass provides protection from an approaching tornado.

Fiction. An overpass is actually a more dangerous place to be during a tornado when compared to a vehicle.  Winds within a tornado can exceed speeds of 200mph, and when funneled under an overpass, they become even stronger.  These structures also leave people exposed to the swirling debris that are picked up by a tornado.  Abandoning a vehicle may block other motorists from seeking safety, putting even more people in harms way.

“Many people mistakenly think that a highway overpass provides safety from a tornado. The reality is: an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado. An overpass as tornado shelter can put people at a greater risk of being killed or seriously injured by flying debris from the powerful tornado winds.” Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness

The bottom line.

The United States is prone is a wide variety of severe weather that extend through the entire year.  While severe weather can strike at any time, the best time to prepare is now.  If you would like more information on how to stay safe in all types of weather, the link here can direct you to the National Weather Service Safety Page.  And that’s a fact!

 

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About Kevin Thiel

Kevin is a Meteorology Major and Mathematics Minor at Ohio University, with an interest for thunderstorm electrification and research. On campus, he serves as President of the AMS Student Chapter, along with Webmaster and Forecaster for the campus atmospheric lab. This past summer, Kevin interned at the National Weather Service office in Miami, Florida, using lightning and radar data to study severe thunderstorm potential. One day, Kevin hopes to enter into field of academia and research, or become a forecaster with the Storm Prediction Center.
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