State promotes severe weather week

Governor Rick Perry has proclaimed the week of March 4-10 as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Texas. The National Weather Service, in coordination with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, urges the citizens of Texas to prepare for the upcoming severe weather season. The goal during the week is to educate all Texans about severe weather safety rules. Emergency preparedness should come before the emergency, not during one. Each spring, Texas experiences numerous outbreaks of severe weather. Many of these outbreaks are deadly. Over the past few years, the National Weather Service’s capability to warn people of impending hazardous weather has improved dramatically through the use of state-of-the-art Doppler weather radar. But early warnings are useless unless people know how to react to impending severe weather. “As part of Texas Severe Weather Awareness Week this year, I urge everyone to participate in the West Central Texas tornado drill,” said Shirley Matejka, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in San Angelo. “The weekly test of NOAA Weather Radio on Wednesday, March 7 will occur between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. When that test of NOAA Weather Radio occurs, your National Weather Service in San Angelo will ask all those participating in the tornado drill to begin their drills. “I strongly recommend that schools and day care centers participate in this tornado drill. Additionally, families, businesses and any other places that are entrusted with public safety may also want to participate. Thursday, March 8 is an alternate day for the drill should bad weather occur Wednesday.” Many natural disasters, aside from tornados, threaten the lives of millions during the spring and summer months. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms. Thunderstorm winds can exceed 100 miles per hour and can cause damage equivalent to a strong tornado. A severe thunderstorm is a storm which produces hail at least 3/4 inch in diameter (about the size of a dime), wind gusts to 58 mph or higher or tornadoes. Tornadoes result in an average of 80 deaths each year with most of those occurring in mobile homes and vehicles. They are nature’s most violent storms and can produce winds in excess of 200 mph. Lightning on the other hand occurs with all thunderstorms and results in an average 93 deaths and 300 injuries each year in the United States. In West Central Texas, the most active months for severe weather are April, May and June. Typically the peak of the severe weather season occurs in the second half of May. The following is a list of helpful tips to follow when faced with thunderstorm or tornadic activity: Before the thunderstorm: ‘Watch for signs of approaching storms. ‘If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA weather Radio or AM/FM radio with you. ‘Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. When thunderstorms approach: ‘If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately. ‘Move to a sturdy building or car. ‘If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard-top automobile and keep the windows up. Before the tornado hits: ‘Develop a plan for you and your family for home, work, school and when outdoors. ‘Have frequent drills. ‘Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone to receive warnings. ‘Listen to radio and television for information. If a warning is issued or threatening weather approaches: ‘In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement. ‘If no basement, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor. ‘Stay away from windows. ‘Get out of automobiles. ‘If caught outside or in a vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch. ‘Abandon mobile homes. In the event of flash flooding: ‘Avoid areas subject to sudden flooding. ‘If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. One cubic foot of water weighs about 62 pounds and when fast moving water impacts any surface, it strikes with incredible force. ‘Do not attempt to drive over a flooded road. The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water, and you could be stranded or trapped. ‘Children should never play around high water, storm drains, viaducts or arroyos.

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