By Presley Dailey, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
The American Red Cross encourages everyone to prepare now for spring storm season. Spring officially starts this Saturday, March 20. Each spring North Texas encounters severe weather events including tornadoes, lightning, thunder, hail and flooding that can cause significant damage or even death. Prepare your emergency kit and stay weather aware by downloading the free Red Cross Emergency app or visit redcross.org/prepare.
While a tornado watch indicates tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. A tornado warning indicates a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar and you should take shelter immediately.
- Recognize the signs of a tornado such as dark, green-tinted clouds, a wall cloud, large hail, a funnel cloud, and a roaring noise similar to a freight train.
- Take shelter in a small room on the lowest level of your home, enclosed by four walls and away from any windows or doors. If in a multi-level building such as an apartment or hotel find a secure hallway towards the center of the complex.
- If you live in a mobile home or trailer, abandon your mobile home and seek shelter in a sturdy building or a vehicle. No area of a mobile home is safe during a tornado or other severe winds.
- Anyone outside who cannot get to a sturdy shelter should immediately get into a vehicle and drive to the closest shelter. Avoid bridges and overpasses. If flying debris or strong winds occur, pull over and park, keep your seat belt on and engine running and cover your head.
Like tornadoes watches and warnings, a flood watch means flooding is possible and a flood warning mean flooding is occurring or will occur soon. Know the flood risks in your area and which routes to use if you need to quickly evacuate.
- Do not walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Six inches of fast-flowing water can knock you over and two feet will float a car.
- If caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. The depth of water may not be obvious and the roadbed may have washed away.
- Floods can contaminate clean water sources, so it is important to fill bathtubs, sinks, and several plastic bottles with clean drinking water – fill enough for everyone in your household.
- If advised by local authorities, turn off utilities and unplug small appliances to reduce damage to your home. If left plugged in/turned on, power surges may cause extensive electrical damage.
Severe thunderstorm may produce hail, high winds, and lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. If under a thunderstorm watch stay informed as conditions are likely and if escalated to a thunderstorm warning take action to shelter your family and pets.
- Close the shades or blinds over all windows and to stay a good distance away from them. If debris or large hail shatters the windows, the glass can be caught by the shades and reduce the risk of injury.
- Avoid taking a shower or running water and unplug or avoid the use of electrical appliances and landline telephones. Metal pipes and wiring can carry electricity if struck by lightning.
- When driving, turn on your flashers, pull safely over to the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure you are away from any trees or objects that could fall onto the vehicle.
- If outside, find shelter in a substantial, permanent, enclosed structure. Avoid gazebos, golf carts, baseball dugouts or other isolated structures in open areas as they are often struck by lightning.