The end of March marks the beginning of spring, and the potential for severe weather.
The National Weather Service (NWS) wants everyone to be prepared for bad weather and has a variety of tips to mark Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 27-31, in Nebraska.
Our area sees its share of dramatic weather changes, including severe thunderstorms, flash floods, derechos, and of course, spring snowstorms.
Tornado drills will be held Wednesday, March 29, at 10 a.m. Many businesses use the statewide tornado drill to practice their safety plans to make sure employees are aware of their designated safe spots.
What is a “severe” thunderstorm? The NWS applies specific criteria to storms of this level.
A thunderstorm is severe when it produces:
- Quarter-size hail 1-inch or larger in diameter
- Winds of at least 58 mph
- A tornado
Thunderstorms can result in damage caused by wind, hail, lightning, flooding and flash flooding, and tornadoes.
In 2022, the number of tornadoes reported in Nebraska was down from the 30-year average of 49, according to the NWS. There were 26 tornadoes reported in the state last year, with 10 occurring in April.
But tornadoes can strike at any time of day, on any day of the year. Be prepared by following these tips:
- Have a plan of action before severe weather strikes. You need to respond quickly when a warning is issued or a tornado is spotted.
- Know how your community sends weather warnings. Some use outdoor sirens, while others depend on media and smartphones to alert residents.
- Pick a tornado-safe room in your home, such as a basement, cellar or interior room on the lowest level with no windows. Ensure all members of your family know what to do in a severe weather situation.
- After a tornado hits, contact loved ones to let them know you are safe. Look out for your neighbors. If you come across an injured person and are properly trained, render first aid until emergency response teams arrive. And stay informed: Multiple rounds of storms are possible during severe weather outbreaks.
- Prepare an emergency kit to have on hand should severe weather strike.
Watches and warnings
There are two key indicators that activate weather advisories – a “watch” and a “warning.” Knowing the difference between these two terms and how to react to them is an important part of severe weather awareness and will help you stay safe.
- Watch: This means severe weather is possible. A watch is issued hours in advance. Check for forecast updates, monitor sky conditions and know where to take shelter.
- Warning: This means severe weather is imminent and is issued by local NWS forecast offices like the one in Valley. Take shelter immediately. Seek further information from media outlets and weather service announcements. You should also check for forecast updates.