What to do before and during severe weather

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Updated: 2/27/2013 11:44 am
Being prepared for severe weather and making sure your entire family knows these steps is vital. Be sure your children know what to do if storms strike when they're home alone.

Tornado safety tips

When a tornado warning is issued you want to get to the lowest level of your home or business and place as many walls as possible between you and the outside. This may be a closet, a bathroom, beneath a staircase or a basement.

Use a blanket or pillows to cover yourself. Helmets provide excellent head protection. Whether it's a helmet for sports, bicycle or motorcycle, helmets can prevent head injuries. Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham found this after studying the 2011 tornado outbreak.

Either turn your TV up or take a radio or mobile phone with you to listen for coverage of the storm.

Here are more tips from the Weather Service:

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement, or
    safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless
    interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the
    safest alternative.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Abandon mobile homes
    and go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy
    building.

  • If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive
    to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
        Now you have the following options as a last resort:
  • Stay in your vehicle with the seat belt on. Put your head down
    below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if
    possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the
    roadway, exit your car, and lie in that area, covering your head
    with your hands.
  • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances

Of course Lubbock was devastated by an F-5 tornado in 1970. The Weather Service Lubbock office has a comprehensive account of that storm and the progress that followed.

Severe Thunderstorm Safety

Get inside a sturdy structure away from windows when a severe storm is approaching. If you can, secure lawn furniture and other loose objects before storms move in. If you can, move your vehicle to a covered area to avoid hail damage.

Even if a severe thunderstorm is not producing a tornado it is dangerous. Straight-line wind can cause widespread damage, like in June 2007 in Seminole, where the wind was clocked at 97.5 mph and estimated to have reached 100-120mph. Childress residents in 2008 experienced similar wind damage from widespread wind over 80 mph.

Mobile homes are not a safe option when storms produce destructive wind.

Lightning Safety

Lightning is not a criteria for severe warnings. But if you are in an open field and can hear thunder you are close enough to be hit by lightning. Get indoors when storms approach. If thunderstorms are approaching while you are on a lake get to land immediately.

Discuss Your Plan

Practice these plans with your family when the weather is quiet. Be sure you have water, a flashlight, batteries, towels, medicine and related items in your storm safe place. Think about what you would want there in the event your home suffers significant damage.

More Details

Click here - for a detailed .pdf from the National Weather Service on severe weather, preparedness and details on how these storms forms.

Highway overpasses and bridges are not a safe shelter from a tornado. Click here - for a detailed presentation from the Norman, OK. Weather Services citing why.

Texas Tech's Wind Science and Engineering is a leading group in storm shelter studies and technology. Click here - for information on these shelters and how you can find one.
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