DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) The days leading up to a severe weather event should be used to make plans and get the right supplies. As the event gets closer, knowing some key items are very important.
Cropped File Photo: Jim Pennucci / CC BY 2.0
The first thing is knowing the difference between a watch and a warning. When a watch is issued, the atmosphere is capable of developing severe weather. Watches normally cover numerous counties in one or multiple states. They usually expire 4 to 6 hours after being issued, but sections of the watch can be cancelled after the severe weather moves through. When a watch is issued, you should review your severe weather plans and pay attention to your local weather stations. A warning is issued when severe weather is imminent, or is currently ongoing. Warnings normally cover smaller portions of one or multiple counties. They are active for a significantly shorter amount of time than a watch. Warnings typically expire 30 to 45 minutes after being issued. When a warning is issued, you should immediately put your severe weather plan into action.
Knowing where to go when a warning is issued is equally as important. Vehicles and highway overpasses are the worst options for shelter during severe weather. Mobile homes and large, open buildings such as gymnasiums do not provide much protection. A center room on the lowest level of a sturdy, site-built home is a good option for shelter--especially basements. Underground storm shelters are the best options for shelter if one is available for you to go to.
Everyone understands the threats that tornado warnings pose, but some do not treat severe thunderstorm warnings with as much respect. In severe weather setups where damaging winds are likely, straight-line winds of 70-90 miles per hour are strong enough to create damage similar to an EF-0 or EF-1 tornado. Make sure you are taking the right precautions for both--not just tornado warnings.
Knowing the right information and knowing what to do during severe weather will help to ensure you will stay safe as the storms pass.