Spring has sprung. Flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and everyone wants to pack winter away. But spring brings more than sunshiny days and longer evenings; it also brings turbulent weather that can wreck your nerves, your property and your home. Learn how to prepare your home and yourself for severe spring weather so you can enjoy the good times ahead.
Types of Severe Spring Weather
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recognizes several types of severe spring weather. The most widespread include:
Knowing what type of severe weather your area can expect is the first step in preparing. If you’re in the market for a new home, ask your REALTOR® what kind of weather the area experiences. If you’re completely new to the area, the National Weather Service offers resources based on location.
Watch or Warning: What’s the Difference?
When bad weather is approaching, you can stay ahead of it by knowing what these meteorological terms mean:
Advisory: Be aware that bad weather is likely to occur based on current weather conditions.
Watch: Be prepared for bad weather to happen, because conditions are occurring that make the chances even more likely than those of an advisory.
Warning: Severe weather is imminent or already occurring. Take whatever precautions the specific weather warrants.
Preparing for Severe Weather
If thunderstorms were just noisy, they wouldn’t be much of a threat. But thunderstorms carry much more weight when it comes to severe weather. All thunderstorms produce lightning, but they also bring with them the possibility of these hazards:
- Tornadoes with wind speeds over 200 mph
- Straight-line winds exceeding 125 mph
- Flash floods, which are the number one cause of thunderstorm-related deaths
- Hail larger than a softball
The best thing to do when thunderstorms occur is to take cover indoors and wait out the weather. If the storm develops into more severe weather, here’s what you need to know.
If you’ve ever watched “The Wizard of Oz” or “Twister,” you’ve seen the rotating funnel of air and debris called a tornado. Tornadoes occur most often in the Central Plains and southeastern United States, but they can occur anywhere. They can rip up trees by the roots, level buildings and towns, and fling semitrucks through the air like toys. When the climate is ripe for rotation, these steps will help you stay safe:
- Keep a weather radio handy and stay aware of watches and warnings. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted on the ground in the area.
- Know where your safe place is. Storm cellars, safe rooms and basements are the best choices. If you don’t have access to these, choose an interior room without windows on the lowest level. Abandon mobile homes for more substantial shelter.
- Get to your safe place and stay there until the storm has passed. Don’t try to capture video of the storm. The flying debris, hail and lightning that accompany a tornado can cause injury or death.
Flooding can occur anywhere. Flooding may occur due to prolonged rainfall or when intense rain falls during a short amount of time, known as flash flooding. Other common types of flooding include:
- River Flooding: When rivers exceed the maximum they can hold
- Storm Surge: Coastal flooding during a tropical storm, hurricane or tsunami
- Burn Scars: Over-saturation of soil after wildfires
- Ice Jams and Snowmelt: Flooding from water sources as they go from frozen to melted
To prepare for flooding, take these steps:
- Install check-valves in plumbing. This will prevent flood waters from backing up into drains.
- Make sure all circuit breakers and fuse boxes are clearly marked in case you need to disable them.
- Have sandbags ready and place them around your home if flooding is anticipated.
- Don’t try to stay in your home if flooding is imminent. Evacuate to higher ground.
Thunder and lightning go hand in hand. Anytime you hear thunder, lightning may be near. But lightning can also strike 10 to 15 miles away from a thunderstorm, even if you can’t see any clouds. To protect yourself from lightning:
- Go indoors at the first sign of severe weather.
- Don’t touch anything plugged into an electrical outlet.
- Stay off corded phones and away from plumbing.
Lightning rods can protect your home from damage by intercepting lightning strikes and dispersing the electrical current into the ground. You can also protect electrical devices with surge protectors and add protection for appliances on gas pipes.
Hail forms when water droplets in a storm are carried by strong upward currents, called updrafts. They quickly reach such high altitudes that they freeze and then fall back to the ground. Hail can grow up to seven inches in diameter and weigh over a pound. When hail crashes to the earth, it can injure people and damage property. When a storm produces hail, protect yourself by staying indoors and away from windows.
What to Do After the Severe Weather Passes
Immediately after severe weather, stay aware of weather conditions for additional storms or conditions that may occur. As soon as possible after the situation ceases, stay safe and do the following:
- Contact family and loved ones. Text messages or social media posts are the most efficient way to let everyone know you’re safe.
- Assess the damage to your property and home. Be aware of fallen power lines and broken glass to avoid injury.
- Contact local authorities about power outages as well as emergency responders if you need assistance.
- Contact your insurance agent to make damage claims.
Make this your safest spring ever. Prepare and stay aware!
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