The official start of the Oklahoma severe weather season is right around the corner, and it’s important for Oklahomans to be prepared. Hail, wind, flooding, and tornadoes are all prevalent threats during Spring in the Sooner State. Although there is general knowledge of how to prepare for and be protected during inclement weather, each threat needs to be treated differently.
For those who have lived in Oklahoma for a while, dealing with severe weather has become second nature. However each mode, or type, of severe weather needs to be taken into account when preparing for inclement weather. Hail is a big problem associated with severe thunderstorms. Depending on its size, hail can do irreparable damage to cars, homes, windows, and yards. When hail is forecasted, the best way to protect vehicles is to park them in the garage, or under some sort of covered structure. If none are available, sheets of foam, such as a mattress topper, can be placed over and secured to the car to shield it from hailstones.
Wind is another common issue in this state. We experience it everyday, but straight-line wind gusts can reach 90+ mph in severe thunderstorms. This is more than enough to blow around lawn equipment, and even blow out windows. It’s important to secure all items in the yard before a thunderstorm, as not only can they be blown away and become lost, but they can also cause damage to a neighbor’s’ property as well. Place trash cans right next to the house to limit the chances of them being knocked over.
Contrary to popular belief, tornadoes are actually quite rare, in relation to how many thunderstorms occur annually. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, only 20 percent of supercell thunderstorms go on to produce tornadoes, and less than 0.1 percent reach EF5 status, the most violent ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
When tornadoes are in the forecast, the first thing to remember is not to panic. Have a plan, have a way to contact family members, and have a way to access severe weather coverage. One could use a battery operated television, a radio, or even an app on a smartphone. If caught in a tornado warning zone, time is critical. The plans and supplies need to have been prepared before the outbreak began. Make sure to include water, flashlights, blankets, snacks, first aid items, and batteries in a tornado emergency kit, and have it readily accessible. Make sure the designated safe spot, which include an interior closet or bathroom, safe room, storm cellar, or basement, is cleaned out. It’s also important to have storm cellars and safe rooms registered, so rescue crews can find them if it were to become enshrouded in debris.
Flooding is also a major problem that is often overlooked. Even as 2015 became the second wettest year on record at 55.06” of rain, with multiple severe flooding events in April and May, people take little consideration of the dangers of floods. According to the National Weather Service, eighty-five people were killed by flood waters in 2013, 53 percent of which were driving.
Remember, turn around, don’t drown. Although the bridge may look like its still there, it may have been washed out under the running water. It only takes two feet of moving water to sweep away a car, and just six inches to knock an average adult off their feet.
Severe weather is always a prominent threat in Oklahoma, and it’s important to have a plan. Each threat needs to be treated differently and taken seriously. It’s important to always be prepared.