The National Weather Service has forecast the first severe thunderstorms of spring this week, including possible baseball-size hail and tornadoes, and as a result, the American Red Cross has offered tips for staying safe when storms hit.
Meteorologist Scott Curl said a southerly flow from the Gulf of Mexico and an upper-level storm from the West Coast will collide this week in Oklahoma, producing severe isolated thunderstorms. The Oklahoma City metro area faces the threat of large hail and tornadic activity from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s not really that uncommon this time of year to get situations where we have very unstable atmosphere,” Curl said. “We’ve had tornadoes every single month of the year in Oklahoma, so we can have it any time of year.
“But this is the time of year that we expect the conditions to come together that are going to produce thunderstorms and supercells. And some of those supercells are going to have the capability on certain days when all the parameters come together, to be able to produce tornadoes.”
The American Red Cross recommends that state residents stay indoors during severe weather and prepare for the worst.
“By preparing for severe thunderstorms, we can make our families safer and our communities stronger,” said Janienne Bella, American Red Cross regional CEO. “We can help you and your family create a disaster preparedness plan now, before our community is threatened by high winds, hail, lightning and excessive rainfall.”
From the American Red Cross:
How to prepare for severe weather
Make a home disaster plan: Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail. Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home. Remove animals from vulnerable dog houses and similar small structures.
Create an emergency preparedness kit: Pack a first aid kit and essential medications, canned food and can opener, bottled water, flashlights and a battery-powered radio with extra batteries.
Heed storm warnings: A “severe storm watch” means severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. People in a watch area should keep informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. A “severe storm warning” means severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. Seek shelter immediately. The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
When the storm approaches
Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles. Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning. Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
If caught outside
Go to low-lying open places away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not flooding. Make yourself the smallest target possible. Squat low to the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees. If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately.