Keep and eye, ear open for weather hazards

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thanks to modern technology, we've never been safer when it comes to knowing about approaching bad weather. Professional meteorologists, storm chasers and amateur skywatchers have an unprecedented array of tools at their disposal when it comes to keeping track of storms.

Unfortunately, that same modern technology can keep us from receiving the warnings we need to hear.

In years past, we watched local television stations, listened to local radio and kept an ear out for the tornado sirens.

Today, we're streaming boxing matches from Las Vegas, watching Netflix over the Internet and our ears are ensconced in some headphones.

Wednesday's bad weather in central and eastern Nebraska was a good reminder that we do live in tornado alley and it pays to pull ourselves away from the entertainment on our flat screens and tablets and look out the window or at least check in with the National Weather Service.

We've had a few relatively calm tornado seasons in Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas, but if current trends hold, this year could be different.

A few reminders:

Tornado Watch: Means tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps save lives.

Tornado Warning: Means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows, get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection such as a heavy table or workbench or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Stay out from under heavy objects upstairs such as pianos or appliances.

In a house with no basement, a dorm or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor in a small central room like a bathroom or closet, under a stairwell or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down and cover your head with your hands.

In an office building, hospital or nursing home: Go to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building and stay low.

In a mobile home: Get out! Even if it is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building.

At school: Follow the drill. Go to the interior hall or windowless room in an orderly way as you are told.

In a car or truck: There's no safe option in a vehicle, only less risky ones. If possible, drive out of the path of the storm. If trapped, stay in the car, buckle up and cover your head with a blanket, coat or cushion. If you can safely get to a noticeably lower level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get away from trees and cars, as they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In a large store: Move to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area away from windows.

In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible move quickly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows.

For more info, visit http://1.usa.gov/1Qqajqs

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