Severe Weather Awareness Week 2018
February 14, 2018
February 18-24, 2018 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Alabama! Advance planning and increased awareness are vital to keeping you and your family safe during the storm.
One of the first steps in being prepared for severe weather is by knowing the difference between important weather terms. A thunderstorm/tornado WATCH means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms/tornadoes. This is the time to prepare - be ready to take shelter if needed, check your supplies, and stay close to home. A thunderstorm/tornado WARNING means that conditions are occurring or are about to occur in your location. This is the time to take action - seek shelter!
Another way to be prepared is to know your local geography. Did you know that almost 80% of people cannot pick out their location on a map? Weather watches are usually issued on a county basis, so it will be helpful to know where Tuscaloosa County is within the state of Alabama, and also the counties surrounding Tuscaloosa. Weather warnings are usually issued on a polygon basis, which means that the warning only covers the areas being affected. Knowing where you live in the county can give you extra minutes to take shelter. Spend some time this week getting familiar with the geography of Tuscaloosa County.
Advance warning is one of the best ways to keep safe during severe weather. If you know it's coming, it is easier to be prepared. That's why it is so important to have multiple ways to receive weather information. A NOAA weather radio is highly recommended. These radios can be programmed for just one county to avoid receiving unnecessary alerts, or can be programmed for multiple counties if you live close to the county line. A great bonus about NOAA weather radios is that the warnings are accompanied with a loud warning noise - which will definitely wake you up in the middle of the night to let you know weather is coming your way! Another great way to receive weather warnings is with your cellphone. There are tons of apps you can check out HERE that get you weather information. Additionally, Tuscaloosa County has a notification system that will send you weather alerts based on your address - it's called TuscALERT. You can sign up HERE or get some tips and tricks on customizing your TuscALERT profile by clicking HERE.
Knowing the different kinds of severe weather and the safety procedures for each is a great way to keep everyone safe during severe weather! For severe thunderstorms, take shelter inside of a sturdy building and stay away from doors, windows, and electrical equipment. Remember that ALL lightning is dangerous. When thunder roars - go indoors! For tornadoes: get in, get low, and get down - seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor or a basement of a sturdy building, and cover your head to protect against debris. When flooding occurs on a road you're traveling on, turn around, don't drown. Water can cover many dangers that you can't see, especially at night.
Make sure you have a safety kit in your shelter area! This kit should have water and food for each person and pet to last at least 3 days, medical supplies, flashlight, and extra batteries. You should freshen your supplies (check batteries, replace expired food, etc) at least once a year. Severe Weather Awareness Week is a great reminder to do so! Find out more about building a kit HERE. If you don't have a kit yet or need to refresh your supplies, Tuscaloosa County, the City of Tuscaloosa, and the City of Northport are all participating in a tax-free preparedness holiday on February 23-25. This preparedness event allows you to purchase select preparedness items without paying sales tax.
Take some time this week to learn new information about severe weather. Learn your National Weather Service office (hint: for Tuscaloosa County, it's the Birmingham office). Browse some information from creditable sources (for instance, the National Weather Service, your local TV meteorologist's blog, or the Tuscaloosa County EMA website). Interested in learning even more about severe weather? Take a storm spotter class! Tuscaloosa County EMA is offering a class on March 22, and it's free and open to the public! You can get more information HERE. If you can't make the in-person class, National Weather Service Birmingham is also offering several online classes throughout February. Check out the schedule and register for a class HERE.