As temperatures warm, most of you are finally getting a chance to get out of the house. However, warmer temperatures usually come with a price. That price is severe weather. The week of February 20-26th has been designated at Severe Weather Awareness week for the state of Tennessee. What does this mean? Well, this is an attempt to make the residents of Tennessee realize that spring severe weather season is upon us. For the most part, a majority of our severe weather occurs during the months of March through May. However, if you have lived in the area long enough you know severe weather can happen anytime of the year. We have seen this back in 2007 when portions of Kimball were devestated by an EF2 Tornado. In October 2009 there were two EF0 tornadoes, one between Jasper and Kimball (near Main Street) and the other in Haletown. Also, January of 2010 lead to two more official tornado reports near Monteagle and Jasper (about 4 miles west northwest of Pryor Cove. The strongest Tornado to affect Marion County occurred in March of 1932 when an EF4 tornado affected locations in southern Marion County.
This is the time to make preparations for severe weather. Make sure you have a plan of action in place. And make sure you have a disaster supply kit easily accessible so that you do not waste valuable time searching for the right supplies. During the week of Feb 20-26 there will be a specific topic covered for the day. Here is a day to day outline of specific topics.
Sunday Feb 20th… The focus is the important role of spotters. There are storm spotter classes held by the National Weather Service each spring in certain communities. THIS IS NOT STORM CHASING. It is appropriate for spotters to follow the same guidelines as the general public in terms of being safe and keeping your family safe during severe weather. It is NOT appropriate for spotters to take themselves or loved ones out into severe weather. A spotter’s job is to simply verify what they see (Damage from wind/Tornado, hail, measured or estimated wind speeds.) Again, spotters attend training. In this training, spotters (Basic/Advanced) are told what to report and what not to report. They will also be instructed what to do if… (many scenarios do occur during severe weather).
On Feb 21… The topic is Flooding/Flash Flooding. Each year Tennessee experiences some type of flooding. Most flooding deaths occur when folks drive into flooded streets. The National Weather Service suggests the following slogan… Turn around… Don’t drown. Also!!! Do not let your children play in flooded creeks or ditches. Children have been killed by drowning in drainage systems. Many kids can be injured by debris and displaced wildlife (such as fire ants and snakes).
On Feb 22… The topic is lightning. Simply put, lightning is the underrated killer! Use this phrase by the National Weather Service when dealing with lightning… When thunder roars… go indoors. When you are inside a sturdy shelter make sure you are away from windows and off corded phones. ALSO do NOT take a shower during a thunderstorm. If your house is struck you may be electrocuted in the shower.
On Feb 23… The topic is Tornadoes. As stated above, tornadoes DO occur in Marion County and they will happen again in the future. Know the difference in a Watch/Warning. When a warning is issued seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor. Abandon cars, manufactured homes (mobile homes), and RVs. Seek shelter in a nearby sturdy shelter. If NO sturdy shelter is in reach, simply seek shelter in a low spot such as a ditch (that is NOT flooded). Be sure to lay flat not allowing air between you and the ground. Be sure to protect your head. A statewide tornado drill is scheduled for this day so it is encouraged that everyone go over their plan of safety. One thing to remember… do not wait until you see or hear a tornado to seek shelter. This is a mistake that may cost you your life. Many tornadoes that strike Tennessee are wrapped in rain and the terrain does not provide proper visibility. Tornadoes can also travel up to 70 miles per hours. By the time you see or hear the tornado… it will likely be too late to react.
On Feb 24… The topic is severe thunderstorms. Two things to remember… 1.) Severe Thunderstorms can and DO produce tornadoes without advanced warning. 2.) Severe Thunderstorm wind gusts can produce damage similar to tornadoes.
The definition of a Severe Thunderstorm is as follows:
-Thunderstorm wind gusts of 58 mile per hour or higher.
-Thunderstorms containing Hail the size of 1″ in diameter or larger
-Thunderstorms that contain tornadoes
On Feb 25… The topic is NOAA Weather Radio… Weather radios can be bought at local electronic stores. Be sure to read the instructions. Radios can be programed to alert you for a specific type of weather event. Weather radios are useful because it will wake you up in the middle of the night if Severe Weather threatens your area. Many storm related deaths occur at night when folks are sleeping and unaware of the dangers around them.
So, things to remember…
1.) Severe Weather can occur anytime of the year.
2.) Put a plan of safety in place and act when necessary.
3.) Know the difference in a watch and a warning. (Watch means conditions are favorable for Severe Weather… Be ready to act) (Warning means severe weather is imminent or already occurring. This is the time to ACT!!!)
4.) Plan to purchase a NOAA Weather Radio in order to stay ahead of the weather. Again, these devices have saved lives… much like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
On behalf of Marion County Messenger… Stay safe and enjoy the warmer weather!
Please see the following PDF link by the National Weather Service for more details…
Marion County Messenger Staff Meteorologist: Robert Frye