Ah… Summer. A time for barbecues, vacations, and sunny days. However, summer can also be a time for severe weather. It’s important to be familiar with each different type of severe weather that can occur in your area, and how to stay safe. Severe weather forecasts can be quite common in some areas and it may be easy to ignore or downplay them. However, not all storms are created equal.
There are two classes of severe weather alerts that can be issued: watches and warnings. A watch is simply an advisory that lets you know that the conditions in your area make it possible for severe weather to develop. A warning, which is much more serious, means that severe weather has developed in your area and you should take steps to ensure your safety.
Some common types of alerts issued by the National Weather Service and relayed to the public through weather radios, news, and media include the following:
Tornado: The current conditions around you are capable of producing a tornado, and you should be prepared to take shelter. In the case of a tornado warning, a tornado has been spotted in the area or detected on radar, and you should take shelter immediately.
Severe Thunderstorm: Weather conditions in your area could be capable of producing a severe thunderstorm with lightning. A severe thunderstorm is classified as a storm that can produce hail 1” or larger in diameter, or winds of 58 mph or more.
Flash Flood: Wide-scale flash flooding is possible, and you should be prepared to leave if necessary. If a Flash Flood Warning has been issued, the area around you is already flooding, and you should evacuate the area as soon as possible.
Tropical Storm: A tropical storm watch is broadcasted as soon as possible to let you know that you have the potential to be impacted by a tropical storm. Ensure that you are prepared and have an emergency kit ready. A warning is issued when a storm is expected within 36 hours. Have your emergency kit ready and be prepared to take shelter immediately.
Hurricane: Similar to a tropical storm, a hurricane watch is issued in the event that a hurricane could impact your area. You should quickly gather your emergency kit as well as any other needed supplies, and be ready to take shelter or evacuate when necessary. If a hurricane warning is issued, it means that a hurricane is expected to hit your area within the next three days. Follow all orders given by law enforcement, immediately leaving the area or taking shelter as directed.
Heat Advisory: The heat index, a combination of temperature and humidity, is above 105°F in your area. You should take extra precautions to stay cool, such as drinking at least 4 cups of water per hour, and taking breaks often. Avoid strenuous activities and those requiring heavy clothing.
Red Flag Warning: The current weather forecast in your area is conducive to the development of large wildfires within the next 24 hours. To minimize the risk of a fire, avoid burning anything outdoors. Local authorities may issue burn bans because even small fires can easily spread out of control due to dry and windy conditions. You should also prepare an emergency kit to be ready for the possibility that you might have to evacuate your home.
Air Quality Alert: Atmospheric conditions have caused the air in your area to have a buildup of harmful chemicals and pollution. Avoid driving except when necessary, preferably after sunset. Postpone filling your gas tank or running gas-powered equipment such as your lawn mower. Continue watching weather forecasts for improved air quality.
During any type of hazardous weather, it’s important to keep your weather alert radio close to receive the latest news and alerts. If you plan to enjoy the outdoors, always take along a portable weather radio since you never know how good your cell phone reception will be in outdoor locations.