DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — This week is Alabama’s Severe Weather Awareness Week. Considering the tornadoes and the strong and severe storms that we had move through the Tri-State last week, it’s a good idea that we review some basics about severe weather terminology, how to prepare, and what to do if severe weather strikes. We’ll have a different daily topic posted on our website, so make sure check for the latest information each evening on wdhn.com
Today we’ll focus on terminology and preparedness. People often ask, “What’s the difference between a watch and a warning?” In all honestly, it’s a pretty big deal to know which is which! The following information is applied to all watches and warnings (Flash Flood, Severe Thunderstorm, Tornado, etc.)
WATCH: This means that conditions are prime for the formation of the specified type of weather. The weather has not yet formed, and could even be 6+ hours away from actually occurring (depending on the type of weather expected). Watches often cover hundreds of square miles, so millions of people can be placed under a watch at the same time.
WARNING: This means that the event is likely occurring or has been confirmed by officials. If you see a warning for your area, it’s very important to take action immediately. That action depends on what type of weather that is occurring, so pay attention to posts later this week that will describe what to do in each weather event. Warnings typically only include a few counties. If you aren’t included in the warning, it is still important to pay attention because a warning could be issued for you shortly.
Preparing for severe weather can also differ based on the type of weather expected. Hurricanes often require residents to evacuate days in advance. Tornadoes typically require you to take shelter in your innermost room only minutes or even seconds before it hits. However, you can always make a weather plan for your family and a weather kit right now that will help you in all types of severe weather.
SEVERE WEATHER PLAN: Just like having a plan in case your house catches on fire, you need to tell every family member what to do if severe weather strikes your household. Two of the most important things are clarity and communication. Whatever your specific plan is for you family, make sure that it makes sense. Make sure people know what to do first, next, and last. This means before, during, and after the event. There may be multiple steps in each individual segment. For example, evacuating before a hurricane may include calling a family member or hotel further inland to make reservations, planning the route and timeline of your evacuation, and grabbing your severe weather kit and whatever else you need for the extended stay away from home. Be very clear with your plan. Communication is also a key aspect. Sometimes people are left out of important conversations. If someone is left out of the conversation here, it could have very serious repercussions for everyone involved. Make sure all of your household members know the details of the plan.
SEVERE WEATHER KIT: This kit could save your life! As evidenced by the power outages and water problems in Texas last week due to large snows, freezing rain, and sub-freezing temps, you never know when or why you might need to resort to this kit. This kit will include numerous things:
- A storage bin for all of the supplies
- Bottled water (or gallon jugs): 1 gallon per person per day
- Non-perishable foods: at least 3 days worth for each person/pet
- Basic toiletries including toilet paper and personal hygiene products AND medications
- Flashlight, weather radio, regular radio + proper batteries
- First aid kit
- Blankets/sleeping bags (emergency blankets too)
- basic tools (a wrench) to turn off pipes if they burst
- whistle to signal for help
- personal identification/papers and cash
To find out more specifics on all things severe weather, check out https://www.weather.gov/bmx/outreach_swaw