Severe weather season is here; national weather alert drill on Wednesday

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What are the main types of severe weather and how can you stay safe?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Spring officially begins Wednesday, March 20, but we’ve already seen our fair share of spring-like weather.

Just last week multiple tornado, severe thunderstorm and flood warnings were issued as a powerful storm system crossed southwestern Ohio. According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, winds more than 60 mph were recorded in our region, along with several reports of funnel clouds near the Cincinnati area.

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Thankfully this round of storms did not bring significant damage to the area, but it does signal severe weather season is here. Coincidentally, this week, March 17-23, is Severe Weather Awareness and Preparedness Week for Ohio. NOAA’s National Weather Service created this national safety campaign to educate and provide information to keep you and your family safe.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Kate Bartley uses Storm Tracker 7 to follow storms on March 14, 2019.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

On Wednesday, state emergency management and the NWS will conduct its annual severe weather tornado drill at 9:50 a.m. Local warning sirens, NOAA all-hazard weather radios, and the Emergency Alert System will be activated to signal the start of the drill. All schools, citizens and businesses are encouraged to participate by reviewing and running through their action plan of what to do and where to go during severe weather.

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Severe thunderstorms can produce a variety of hazardous weather conditions including hail, damaging winds, flooding, lightning and even tornadoes.

Do you know what to do if severe weather strikes?

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS

By definition, severe thunderstorms are storms that are capable of producing hail at least one inch in diameter or winds of 58 mph or higher. You can have one or both of these conditions to prompt a severe thunderstorm warning. The best way to stay safe during a severe thunderstorm is to move indoors away from windows.

FLOODING

According to NWS data, a 30-year average (1988-2017) showed flooding was the second leading cause of weather-related deaths. In case you were wondering, the number one spot is not caused by severe weather, but rather heat. More people die from flooding than tornadoes or lightning. The saddest part of this statistic is many of these deaths are a result of people being trapped in their vehicles after driving through flood waters.

TORNADOES

You may be saying to yourself you know what to do if a tornado were approaching, but have you ever run through your action plan? Perhaps you don’t have a basement, but you have a bathroom in the center of your home or business. Think to yourself, would it be big enough to accommodate everyone? Is the bathtub large enough? If the answer is no, where would you go? These are the questions you would want to answer now, not when a tornado is barreling down on top of you.

During a tornado: 

  • Go to the basement or storm cellar
  • If there is no basement, go to a small interior room on the lowest level of your home or building away from windows
  • Cover your head and neck with your arms and other materials like blankets and pillows for additional protection.
  • If you're in a car or outdoors, try to find a sturdy shelter. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe
  • If no safe shelter is in sight, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.

LIGHTNING

Lastly, but certainly not least, lightning can be dangerous. The United States sees about 25 million strikes of lightning per year. One bolt of lightning can reach a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of sun. And while a storm doesn’t have to be severe to produce lightning, it kills roughly 47 people every year across the country. The best way to protect yourself from a lightning strike is to move indoors immediately if you hear a rumble of thunder. Lightning can strike up to 15 miles away from the parent storm.

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