The month of March brings a lot of positives that most people enjoy. For example, the month that winter comes to an end, for basketball fans, March Madness, and in just a few days, extended hours of daylight with the time change. However, the month also begins one of the most dangerous of the year for people in much of the country, including here in Kentucky, that being the added threat of severe weather.
The primary time-period for the most severe weather occurs during the months of March through May in the Ohio Valley region, but severe storms can and do occur year-round.
The most severe weather threat in the region is, of course, tornadoes, but severe thunderstorms with high winds and dangerous lighting also occur often and in these storms brings the threat of dangerous flooding.
Tornadoes can produce winds in excess of 300 miles per hour and travel across the ground at up to 60 miles per hour. They can develop any time of day or night, and any month of the year, but are most common in the afternoon/evening hours and during the seasons of spring and fall.
Below-ground shelters, and reinforced “safe rooms” provide the best protection against tornadic winds. Other options include:
* In homes or small buildings, go to the northeast corner of a basement. If a basement is not available, go to the smallest, most-interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Cover yourself to protect your body from flying debris.
* In schools, hospitals, factories or shopping malls, go to the smallest, most-interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head.
* In high rise buildings, go to the smallest, most-interior rooms or hallways. Stay away from exterior walls and windows.
* In cars or mobile homes, abandon them immediately. Cars and mobile homes provide no protection from tornadic winds. If you are in either of these locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter. Do not attempt to seek shelter beneath an overpass or bridge. They provide little or no shelter and have proved to be deadly options.
* If caught in the open, lie flat in a culvert, ditch or depression and cover your head.
* Lightning is a threat anywhere thunderstorms occur. If you hear thunder, it is time to take shelter.
When inside: Avoid using the telephone, or other electrical appliance and do not bathe or shower, or stand near plumbing.
If caught outdoors:
* Seek shelter in a sturdy building. A hard-top automobile can also offer protection.
* If you are boating or swimming, get out of the water and move to a safe shelter on land.
* If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.
* If you feel your hair standing on end, squat with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat.
* Avoid isolated trees or other tall objects, water, fences, convertible cars, tractors and motorcycles.
Flash floods develop quickly. They can occur anywhere, along rivers or creeks, in low water crossings or in a dry stream bed. They can occur at night when it is difficult to find an escape route. Flash floods can be deceptive. Flood waters are likely deeper and moving faster than you think.
* Avoid low water crossings.
* Use alternate routes to avoid flood prone areas.
* Leave your vehicle immediately if stalled in flood waters.
* Move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
* Most cars and light trucks will begin to float in as little as 12 inches of water.
* Act quickly, rising waters make vehicle doors difficult to open.
If you are outside:
* Everyone, especially children, should stay away from flooded creeks, streams or drainage ditches.
* Swiftly flowing water can quickly sweep away even the strongest swimmers.
* Soggy banks can collapse, dumping you into flood waters.
General Storm-Safety Tips:
No matter where you live, you’ll encounter storms. Most of the time these are routine, but some cause serious and dangerous problems. Here are tips for preparing for storms, and weathering them safely.
* Always keep a battery-powered radio in your home so that you can tune into radio stations if you lose electricity. Check or change the batteries frequently.
* Keep a flashlight in an easily accessible spot on every floor of your home. Check the batteries monthly, and replace them as needed.
* Keep a supply of candles on hand for power failures.
* As a safety precaution before leaving the house on vacation, unplug all electrical appliances except for those lights connected to automatic timers.
* If you live in a storm-prone area, nail down roof shingles or use adequate adhesive to keep them from blowing off in a violent wind. For roofs with shingles that are not the seal-down type, apply a little dab of roofing cement under each tab.
* A lightning-protection system should offer an easy, direct path for the bolt to follow into the ground and thus prevent injury or damage. Grounding rods (at least two for a house) should be placed at opposite corners of the house.
* Don’t go out during a storm unless you have to; however, if flooding threatens, seek high ground, and follow the instructions of civil defense personnel.
* When a major storm is imminent, close shutters, board windows, or tape the inside of larger parts with an “X” along the full length of their diagonals. Even a light material like masking tape gives the glass the extra margin of strength it needs to resist cracking.
* When a tornado threatens, leave windows slightly ajar.
* The basement is not a good shelter during a tornado–it’s too close to gas pipes, sewer pipes, drains, and cesspools. A better shelter would be underground, far from the house (in the case the roof falls) and away from the gas and sewer systems. Let all family members know where the shelter is.
* Keep an eye on large trees–even healthy ones–that could damage your house if felled in a storm. Cut them back, if necessary.
When threatening weather forecasts are issued, stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio if accessible or keep tuned to television and radio stations that constantly update weather alerts, watches and warnings.