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March 02, 2022

Spring is springing in the USA, and with it comes tornado season…the real tornado season. In our country, tornadoes have happened on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and every single day of the year - and at every hour of the day and night. In fact, there are specific areas of the United States, such as the Gulf Coast states, that have an almost year-round tornado season.

THE REAL TORNADO SEASON

The primary tornado season in North America is spring, when the sun is rising higher in the sky, adding increasing warmth to the atmosphere. 

Farther north, there is still an abundant supply of cold air, and clashing airmasses stirred by powerful low pressure can make spring a very exciting, but dangerous time.

THE TWISTER THREAT

Remember, the odds of a tornado ever hitting the home you live in – even in Tornado Alley – is still very low. Kansas has the most tornadoes per area of any spot on the planet, but if you live there, your home might get smacked by a twister only once every 200 or 300 years…maybe 2000 years or more for a big EF-5. 

However, tornadoes do happen, and it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your family. You’ll gain peace of mind if you’re ready when you need to be.

SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEK

Tornado season kicks off first in our southern states, where emergency managers highlight Severe Weather Awareness Week (SWAW) in February. As springtime warmth steadily moves north, so does SWAW. 

In Kansas, Missouri, and Kentucky it’s in mid-March and by the time you get to Minnesota and the Dakotas, April.

It takes a while for the ever-higher sun to create warm air all the way into Canada, but it will eventually happen, and severe weather moves north with it.

In spring, most American schools hold their first tornado drill, especially during SWAW, when statewide tornado drills are common. 

At a designated time, outdoor tornado sirens sound, TV and radio stations announce a “test” tornado warning, and in schools throughout the state, alarm bells ring as teachers and students file into their safe areas. Here, they hunker down, cover their heads, and pretend they are dodging a real twister. In the past fifty years, the U.S. has found such training to be profoundly successful. People who have practiced seeking shelter from tornadoes, flash floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes are much faster at getting there when it’s a real event, and that saves lives.

ARE TORNADOES GETTING MORE DANGEROUS?

Despite obvious climate changes that do affect some weather patterns, we see no increase in the number or ferocity of tornadoes. 

We do, however, see a strange quirk in recent tornado activity - tornado “droughts” with very few twisters, can be punctuated by large scale “outbreaks” of many, followed by another tranquil time. 

This can occur on the scale of weeks or months, and it creates a problem for preparedness that you need to be aware of. Just because you haven’t had a tornado for a long time, doesn’t mean you can’t get one next week.

PREPARING FOR TORNADOES

In your car, you put on a seatbelt to be safe and the car has airbags to protect you even more in case you crash.

By the same token, a NOAA Weather Radio is like the seatbelt in your car – the baseline, tried-and-true lifesaving tool. 

The addition of your cell phone as a protective alerting device is much like the airbag in your car- it’s an additional source of protection, but not one you should rely on 100%.  Like seatbelts, weather radios are your #1 safety device.  And like airbags, cell phones help you stay safe, but it can be dangerous to rely on one system alone.

NOAA WEATHER RADIOS

For tornado season, get a weather radio that is Public Alert certified. 

By meeting Public Alert’s stringent quality and performance criteria, the Midland WR120 and WR400 radios can be trusted to be a primary source of weather safety for your home, your school, and your business. You can program them to alert for only your county. and

These radios operate silently 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When dangerous weather approaches, you’ll be instantly alerted.

If you’re a working mom or dad, a NOAA weather radio should be standard equipment in your home. 

Teach your children how it works, what alert tone to listen for, and what to do when a watch or a warning is issued. That way, when your family is home alone, you know they will get the warning faster than you could call it in to them.

If you’ve also held your own family “tornado drill”, you’ll feel confident they can do the right thing on their own.

Every member of every family should be educated and prepared, and it’s up to teachers, moms, and dads to do it. That’s how we build a Weather-Ready Nation.



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