Severe weather: What to do before a severe weather event

Severe Weather

We had a taste of some strong thunderstorms early Wednesday morning and severe weather season is upon us. 

Living where we do it is not a matter of if we’re going to get severe thunderstorms or tornadoes, it is a matter of when and how bad they are going to be.

Rick Smith is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma.

“For parts of our area, a lot of Texoma has not seen a major tornado in many many years. So there’s a lot of people that live here that don’t have a good grasp on what do I do in a tornado,” Smith said.

And so right now, as you read this think about what you will do. Start where you live.

“If it’s a mobile home there are really no good options for safety in a mobile home so your plan needs to think about where can I go? And that is going to require further in advance action if a tornado is coming,” Smith said.

In your home or office consider this.

“Find the part of the house or building that you are in that puts as many walls between you and the outside as you can. Lowest floor, the centermost part of the building and cover up with whatever you have available,” Smith said.

And something to cover your head, like a helmet. On a severe weather day, there might be a little bit of extra work.

“If it is a closet in the middle of the house, if that closet is full of junk, like many closets are in my house, make room for your family to get in there on a severe weather day,” Smith said.

And consider what you might deal with after severe weather passes.

“Our tornadoes happen when it is sunny and 85 degrees and we may be dressed in shorts and flip flops and tank tops and we’re not dressed for the environment after a tornado. Closed toed shoes are important. Long pants are important. You’re going to be walking out through all kinds of glass, wood, metal, nails. Dress the part, thinking that I could be walking around in debris, in the pouring rain, 40 degrees colder than it was when I went in the shelter, windy, and I may have to live in these clothes for some hours or days if your home is destroyed,” Smith said.

Kim Klockow-McClain is a societal impact researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is studying people’s response to severe weather.

“If you don’t have a plan and things are starting to happen then your brain goes into a kind of tunnel vision and you’re not considering as many things as you might if you’re not in the moment not in the crisis so just from that perspective you’ll be at a disadvantage if you’re trying to push it off and not think about it until the last minute,” Klockow-McClain said.

Kim’s message? Plan ahead.

“As we get into severe weather season it is important for people to think about what they need to have on hand if severe weather strikes, but also to have a family plan if there is a severe weather day. Where will you be, where will your children be? If you’re coming up on a day where severe weather is possible, just have a plan. Just the mere fact of having a plan helps you so much the day that things take place,” said Klockow-McClain.

If you’d like to dig a little deeper, all things weather safety can be found at the national weather service website, it is called weather-ready nation. 

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Severe Weather Definitions

Severe Thunderstorm Warning
Issued when there is evidence based on radar or a reliable spotter report that a thunderstorm is producing, or about to produce, wind gusts of 58 mph or greater, structural wind damage, and/or hail 1 inch in diameter or greater.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch
Is issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms over a larger-scale region. Tornadoes are not expected in such situations, but isolated tornado development cannot be ruled out.

PDS Severe Thunderstorm Watch
PDS stands for "Particularly Dangerous Situation" and is issued by the SPC when conditions are favorable for the development of high-end severe thunderstorms over a larger region.  In this situation the SPC believes multiple events of extreme severe weather with significant wind damage are likely to occur.  Citizens should alter their daily routine and listen for further updates when this watch is issued.  Tornadoes are not expected in such situations, but isolated tornado development cannot be ruled out and widespread straight-line wind damage is likely.

Tornado Warning - Observed or Radar Indicated
Issued when there is evidence based on radar or a reliable spotter report that a tornado is imminent or occurring.

Tornado Warning - Considerable
Issued when a reliable spotter reports the existence of a tornado (therefore, it is confirmed, not radar indicated) and it is doing considerable damage.

Tornado Warning - Catastrophic
Issued when a reliable spotter reports the existence of a tornado (therefore, it is confirmed, not radar indicated) and it is doing extreme damage that is considered catastrophic; complete destruction is possible.

Tornado Watch
Is issued by the Storm Prediction Center when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over a larger-scale region.

PDS Tornado Watch
PDS stands for "Particularly Dangerous Situation" and is issued when the SPC believes that a large outbreak of long-lived, large and violent tornadoes is likely.  This is a high-end tornado watch.  People in a PDS Tornado Watch should change their daily routines to ensure they are weather aware and prepared to take action with little notice.

Significant Weather Advisory
Issued for strong thunderstorms that are below severe levels, but still may have some adverse impacts. Usually issued for the threat of wind gusts of 40-58 mph or hail up to 1 inch in diameter.

Flash Flood Watch
Issued generally when there is the possibility of flash flooding or urban flooding over an area within the next 36 hours.

Flash Flood Warning
Issued when flash flooding is imminent, generally within the next 1 to 3 hours. Usually issued based on observed heavy rainfall (measured or radar estimated), but may also be issued for significant dam breaks that have occurred or are imminent.

Flood Watch
Issued when there is the possibility of widespread general flooding over an area within the next 36 hours.

Flood Warning for River Forecast Point
Issued when a river gauge has exceeded, or is forecast to exceed, a predetermined flood stage.

Flood Advisory
Issued when flooding is imminent or occurring, generally within the next 1 to 3 hours, but is not expected to substantially threaten life and property.

Wind Advisory
Issued when sustained winds of 30 to 39 mph are expected for 1 hour or longer.

High Wind Warning
Issued when sustained winds of 40 mph or more are expected for 1 hour or longer, or for wind gusts of 58 mph or more with no time limit. A High Wind Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Dense Fog Advisory
Issued when fog is expected to reduce visibilities to 1/4 mile or less.

Heat Advisory
Issued when maximum daytime heat index values are expected to reach or exceed 105°F on at least 2 consecutive days, with intermediate low temperatures of 75°F or higher.

Excessive Heat Warning
Issued when maximum daytime heat index values are expected to reach or exceed 110°F on at least two consecutive days, with intermediate low temperatures of 75°F or higher. An Excessive Heat Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Frost Advisory
Issued when nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to range from 33°F to 36°F in the growing season.

Freeze Warning
Issued when nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to reach 32°F or lower in the growing season. They are usually issued to highlight the first few freezes of the fall, or unusually late freezes in the spring. A Freeze Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Air Stagnation Advisory
Issued only at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whenever atmospheric conditions are stable enough to cause air pollutants to accumulate in a given area.

Blowing Dust Advisory
Issued when blowing dust is expected to reduce visibility to between 1/4 and 1 mile, generally with winds of 25 mph or greater.

Dust Storm Warning
Issued when blowing dust is expected to reduce visibility frequently to 1/4 mile or less, generally with winds of 25 mph or more.

Dense Smoke Advisory
Issued when smoke is expected to reduce visibility to 1/4 mile or less.

Fire Weather Watch
Issued when dry vegetation and conditions favoring extreme fire danger are expected 12 to 72 hours in the future.

Red Flag Warning
Issued when dry vegetation and conditions favoring extreme fire danger are expected, generally within 24 hours.

Snow Advisory
Issued when accumulating snow of 2 to 4 inches is expected. An advisory may still be warranted if lesser accumulations will produce travel difficulties, especially early in the winter season.

Blowing Snow Advisory
Issued when blowing snow is expected to occasionally reduce visibilities to 1/4 mile or less with winds generally 25 to 34 mph. The event should last at least 3 hours.

Snow and Blowing Snow Advisory
Issued when winds of 25 to 34 mph are expected to be accompanied by falling snow and blowing snow, occasionally reducing the visibility to 1/4 mile or less. The event should last at least 3 hours.

Freezing Rain/Drizzle Advisory
Issued for freezing rain when ice accumulations are expected to cause travel problems, but not exceed 1/4".

Sleet Advisory
Issued for accumulating sleet of 1/4" to 1". Because sleet usually occurs with other precipitation types, a winter weather advisory will almost always be used in such cases.

Winter Weather Advisory
Issued for a winter weather event in which there is more than one hazard present, but all precipitation is expected to remain below warning criteria. For example, it would be issued if 2 inches of snow were expected with a small amount of sleet mixing in at times.

Wind Chill Advisory
Issued when wind chill values will reach -5°F to -19°F, with wind speeds around 10 mph or more.

Wind Chill Warning
Issued when wind chill values will reach -20°F or colder, with wind speeds around 10 mph or more. A Wind Chill Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Ice Storm Warning
Issued when a period of freezing rain is expected to produce ice accumulations of 1/4" or greater, or cause significant disruptions to travel or utilities.

Heavy Sleet Warning
Issued when a period of sleet is expected to produce ice accumulations of 1" or greater, or cause significant disruptions to travel or utilities.

Heavy Snow Warning
Issued when snow is expected to accumulate 4 inches or more in 12 hours, or 6 inches or more in 24 hours.

Winter Storm Warning
Issued for a winter weather event in which there is more than one hazard present, and one of the warning criteria listed above is expected to be met. For example, it would be issued if 5 inches of snow were expected in 12 hours, with some sleet mixing in at times. It is commonly issued for heavy snow with strong winds of 25-34 mph that will cause blowing and drifting of the snow. A Winter Storm Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Blizzard Warning
Issued for sustained wind or frequent gusts greater than or equal to 35 mph accompanied by falling and/or blowing snow, frequently reducing visibility to less than 1/4 mile for three hours or more. A Blizzard Watch is issued when these conditions may be met 12 to 48 hours in the future.

Weather Radio Guide and Information

 

Instructions to programming your weather radio are available here.

You can also purchase a weather radio here.

Weather Radio Programming Codes

Texas
County S.A.M.E. Code NWS Frequency
Archer 48009 162.475
Baylor 48023 162.425
Childress 48075 162.525
Clay 48077 162.475
Cottle 48101 162.525
Foard 48155 162.525
Hardeman 48197 162.425
Haskell 48207 162.400
Jack 48237 162.525
King 48269 162.525
Knox 48275 162.425
Montague 48337 162.425
Stonewall 48433 162.500
Throckmorton 48447 162.425
Wichita 48485 162.475
Wilbarger 48487 162.475
Wise 48497 162.550
Young 48503 162.52
 
Oklahoma
County S.A.M.E. Code NWS Frequency
Comanche 40031 162.550
Cotton 40033 162.475
Greer 40055 162.425
Harmon 40057 162.425
Jackson 40065 162.425
Jefferson 40067 162.425
Kiowa 40075 162.550
Stephens 40137 162.550
Tillman 40141 162.550