How should I prepare for a hurricane?

For up-to-date hurricane and severe weather information, even during a power outage, listen to your NOAA Weather radio. The Midland ER102 with emergency crank function keeps you alerted when the power is down. Keep extra batteries handy, as well as bottled water and canned food.

For more items helpful in an emergency, check out the National Hurricane Center’s disaster supply kit checklist: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/prepare/supply_kit.shtml

For tips on preventing damage to your home and developing a family plan: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/disaster_prevention.shtml

What is the difference between a tropical depression, tropical storm and hurricane?

Tropical cyclones are classified based on sustained wind speeds. Higher sustained winds are directly correlated to damage potential.

  • Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
  • Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
  • Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.
  • Major Hurricane: A tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph (96 knots) or higher, corresponding to a Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
When is hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15th to November 30th.

The National Hurricane Center describes the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season as mid-August through late October. However, deadly hurricanes can occur anytime in the hurricane season.

What is a hurricane?

NOAA Hurricane

According to the National Hurricane Center, a hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low-pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. The cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms and, in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.

A tropical cyclone is called a hurricane when maximum sustained winds reach or exceed 74 mph. In the western North Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons; similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.

What causes a tornado, and how do they form?

suprcell diagram

According to the Glossary of Meteorology (AMS 2000), a tornado is “a violently rotating column of air, pendant from a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud.”  According to the Storm Prediction Center, in order for a vortex to be classified as a tornado, it must be in contact with the ground and the cloud base. A large variety of weather patterns can lead to tornadoes, but they most often occur in super cells – which are rotating thunderstorms with a well-defined radar circulation called a mesocyclone. A strong updraft of air into the storm may begin to rotate as the wind changes direction higher in the atmosphere, which can produce a rapidly rotating column of air that eventually makes contact with the ground – a tornado.  However, not all super cells will produce a tornado.

It’s this uncertainty and the tornado’s ability to form rapidly that make a weather radio essential in any home.

Why do I need a severe weather alert radio? Won’t any radio do?

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) broadcasts National Weather Service weather alerts, warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day.

During severe weather, NWS forecasters interrupt regular broadcasting and send a special tone activating local weather radios. Weather radios equipped with a siren feature will sound a weather alert giving immediate information about a life-threatening situation.

Weather radios are called “indoor tornado sirens” because they broadcast tornado warnings as soon as they are issued and can wake you while sleeping. Outdoor storm sirens are meant only for warning people outdoors. They may not be heard at night or during a loud thunderstorm.

All Hazards Weather Alert Radios will sound for a variety of situations, including severe weather, hurricanes, tornadoes, amber alerts and civil emergencies. Portable versions of NWR like the Midland HH54VP2 and HH50 provide localized alerts to travelers, storm watchers and outdoorsmen.

Any radio won’t do because only a weather radio can receive NOAA broadcasts. A weather radio that can run on back-up batteries is the only way to ensure you receive severe weather and public alerts even without electricity.

What are the different types of tornadoes?

Tornado observers, storm trackers and storm chasers usually classify a twister based on its appearance. Tornadoes may not always have the classic “funnel” appearance – wider at the cloud base and narrower at the surface.

“Wedge” tornadoes appear to be at least as wide as they are tall.  “Rope” tornadoes are very narrow and often snake-like.  “Stovepipe” tornadoes resemble cylinders and can sometimes also fit into the definition of a wedge tornado.  While wedge tornadoes are generally regarded as the most intense, any tornado can be destructive, regardless of shape or size.

Exactly what is NOAA Weather Radio?

NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information direct from a nearby National Weather Service office. NWR broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day.

During an emergency, NWS forecasters interrupt routine broadcasts with a special tone activating local weather radios. Weather radios equipped with a siren feature will sound an alert to give you immediate information about a life-threatening emergency situation like severe weather.

For more information visit: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/

How many tornadoes are there each year?

2011 tornado map

According to the Storm Prediction Center, recent trends indicate around 1,300 per year, give or take a few hundred. The actual average is unknown, because tornado spotting and reporting methods have changed so much in the last several decades that the officially recorded tornado climatologies are considered incomplete.

Also, in the course of recording thousands of tornadoes, errors are bound to occur. Events can be missed or misclassified; and some non-damaging tornadoes in remote areas could still be unreported.

What is Public Alert?

Public Alert logoPublic Alert is a certification by the Consumer Electronics Association to designate Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) products with superior performance and reliability in the U.S. and Canada. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes Public Alert for the dissemination of terrorism-related information.

What is the difference between a tornado watch and a warning?

A watch means severe weather is possible during the next few hours, while a warning means that severe weather has been observed, or is expected soon. A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. Warnings may be issued based on Doppler radar-indicated rotation within a thunderstorm, suggesting tornado formation, or based on eyewitness reports of a tornado on the ground.

High winds, hail, heavy rain and lightning can knock out power. When you can’t turn on the television or your regular radio, a weather radio (either emergency crank or battery powered) is the only way you’ll be able to receive severe weather alerts and tornado warnings.

What is S.A.M.E.?

 

The National Weather Service uses NOAA Weather Radio to broadcast weather conditions, forecasts or alerts. Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) can be programmed so your weather radio only alerts you to severe weather and emergency warnings in your area.

If your weather radio has S.A.M.E., you can program it to sound an alert only if it affects your county. Most weather radios will allow you to program multiple S.A.M.E. county codes in case you would like to receive alerts for surrounding counties.

Find your S.A.M.E. code at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/indexnw.htm#sametable%20.