By Devan Nieto, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
Groundhog Day is officially upon us. Will the groundhog see his shadow? Or will spring be quickly approaching?
As we wait for the announcement of our seasonal fates, one thing is for certain: weather is an ever-changing thing here in North Texas this time of year. So with that stressful and varied weather comes safety precautions you should follow to keep you and your family safe.
As the winter season is drawing to a close, it’s important to remember that icy weather and roads is still a possibility in the ever-changing North Texas region. For DFW, one of the main threats is black ice, which can quickly become a driving hazard. Often times, the ice on roads is clear- causing it to blend in with the black surface of the roads- making it nearly impossible for drivers to see it’s patches.
- Driving Tips:
- Reduce your speed: Driving at high speeds (faster than 45 mph) makes it much easier to slide and lose control of your vehicle. In fact, fishtailing and sliding can even occur at 10 mph or less. Slow down to lower the chances of losing control.
- Avoid icy roads as much as possible: The number 1 way to prevent getting into an ice-related accident is to avoid the roads until the ice has melted.
- Go easy on your brakes: It’s important to resists stomping on your brakes when there is ice on the roads. If you sense that you’re losing control of your vehicle, stay calm and steadily apply pressure to your brakes. By doing so you can avoid locking up your steering wheel.
- Turn into a slide: Fishtailing and sliding are common during icy conditions. If you find yourself doing either, make sure to turn your wheel in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. If you find that you’ve overcorrected and begin sliding the other direction, switch the direction in which you are turning until you gain control of your vehicle again.
- Avoid hills: The reason that cars slide on icy roads is due to their tires not being able to gain traction with the road. Now imagine trying to go up a hill with zero traction. Not a great idea. It’s best to avoid hills until the icy conditions have subsided.
When a thunderstorm reaches the point of being considered “severe”, many will produce hail of all sizes (from the size of a dime to that of a grapefruit) that can cause an array of damage such as broken window, battered roofs, and dented cars. Last April, North Texas faced over $1.5 billion in hail costs in a time frame of approximately four weeks. To avoid those pesky, money eating, balls of ice, know what precautions to make before/during/after a storm.
- As hail pelts to the ground during a storm, glass often becomes a casualty. Therefore, it’s important to cover up all the glass in your house to prevent being injured from flying glass. Draw all curtains, blinds, and window shades before the storm reaches you.
- Park your vehicles in your garage or under a covered parking spot to avoid damages to the body or windows of the car.
- Avoid going outside.
- If you’re stuck in your vehicle during a hailstorm, pull over (preferably somewhere that is covered) and turn away from windshield. Cover body with blanket or coat to dodge possible glass that could fly from impact.
- Before going outside, make sure that the storm has passed and conditions are safe. Be sure to avoid any broken branches or damaged power lines.
- Tend to roof or other damaged items as soon as possible to prevent any further damage.
According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes the United States approximately 25 million times a year- killing on average 49 people in the U.S. every year. No need to fret, there are steps and precautions you can take to make sure you stay safe the next time lightning strikes.
- There is no safe place outside when lightning strikes. The only safe option one has when they find themselves caught outside during a storm is to located/get inside the nearest safe building or vehicle. It’s important to stay inside the building or vehicle for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder. By doing so, you are able to ensure that the storm has passed.
- If you have no choice but to stay outside avoid elevated areas, water, overhangs, or isolated trees. Each of which are more likely to be struck.
- Being indoors is already a safer option that the previous from the get-go. There are still safety precautions, however, one must be sure to take including staying from electrical cords and equipment that require electrical outlets, plumbing (e.g. sinks and baths), doors/windows, and concrete walls and floors.
In comparison to other natural disasters, flash floods kill more people per year than any other storm. The American Meteorology Society, defines a flash flood as “one that rises and falls quite rapidly with little or no advance warning usually as the result of intense rainfall over a relatively small area”. Many times floods are caused by the population density and urban infrastructure. Seeing that DFW has a high population density, floods have become unavoidable. Making sure you know what to do before, during, and after a flood could be the difference between life and death.
- “Flood Warning vs. Watch”
Flood Warning/ Flash Flood Warning = Take Action!
Flood Watch = Be Prepared
Flood Advisory = Be Aware
- Stay up-to-date: Know what weather you could be expecting for the week. Being up-to-speed and knowing beforehand could be the factor that saves your life.
- Make a plan: Know your area’s flood risk and local emergency plans. Also make sure to restock emergency kits. Make sure to include a flashlight, batteries, money, and first aid supplies.
- Avoid water: Avoid driving or walking through large puddles of water while driving. It doesn’t take much for your car to be swept away (2 inches) or for you to be knocked down (6 inches).
- Move to higher ground: If water has managed to wrap around your car or house and is not moving, immediately move to higher ground. If water is in motion, stay in your vehicle.
- Avoid certain areas: Do your best to avoid streams, rivers, or creeks during a flood. These areas are easily flooded.
Damages caused by floods are both visible and invisible to the naked eye. Floods can damage houses, vehicles, roadways, and possessions as well as contaminate drinking water. Gas leaks and live power lines can also become a deadly threat following a flood. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests you do the following:
- Stay informed
- Avoid Flood Waters
- Avoid Disaster Areas
- Heed Road Closed and Cautionary Signs
- Wait for the “All Clear”
- Contact your family and loved ones
Tornadoes are no stranger for the North Texas Region. They’re ruthless and merciless and can destroy anything in its path within a matter of seconds. It’s important to stay alert and ready before, during, and after a tornado.
- “Tornado Watch” vs. “Tornado Warning”
Tornado Watch = Be prepared!
Tornado Warning = Take Action!
- Prepare For:
- Always be weather-aware: Look at forecasts daily and be cautious of possible threats. This will allow you to know what to look out for and what safety precautions may become necessary.
- Create and practice a safety plan beforehand: It’s important to discuss possible safety locations, meeting places, and plans before they are necessary. By doing so, one can eliminate excess panic and use precious time wisely.
- Stay Up-to-Date on Weather. Staying up-to-date with the latest conditions will allow you to know when shelter is vital as well as when the storm has passed.
- Seek Shelter. Your location during a storm will determine what shelter you must seek during a tornado. At home seek places such as the basement or most interior room that does NOT contain windows. At work and school it’s important to follow the implemented safety drills. Seek interior rooms but make sure to avoid large rooms such as cafeterias, gyms, or conference rooms. If you’re caught outside during a tornado, search for a sturdy building quickly. Avoid sheds and storage facilities- they are unstable and are unlikely to withstand the high winds of a tornado. If you are driving and find yourself stuck in your vehicle when the storm hits, it is VERY important that you try to find a sturdy building as soon as possible. If there is not a building around you, however, one can get down and cover their head while in his/her vehicle or find the lowest possible location such as a ditch or ravine.
- Stay Informed: When severe weather strikes, it’s possible that other tornadoes or storms can spur quickly after the first hit. Make sure to continue listening to the weather for other possible storm warnings.
- Contact Loved Ones: Check up on friends and family who might have been caught in the affected area. This will insure that those who may need medical attention or aid can get help quickly.
- Assess Damage
- Extend Clean-up Help to The Community