This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Louisiana. In my last blog entry a few months ago I offered an explanation for the rash of tornadoes witnessed across the country during the month of December. I pointed out the cold water that encompassed a large part of the Pacific ocean could be playing a role as most of the larger tornado outbreaks that we have experienced across the country occurred during years when the Pacific was colder than normal.
Unfortunately, nothing has changed that much. We are seeing some slight warming compared to normal, but water temperatures remain well below normal. Unless we see a quick and drastic change in the next month, it appears that the upcoming severe weather season around the country will be an active one.
Let’s take another look back at 2011. We had the third most tornadoes on record including three of the largest outbreaks on record. A very rare EF5 tornado in Joplin, MO killed 161 people. Here in the ArkLaTex, we had 35 tornado touchdowns that spring including a late April outbreak that produced 26 tornadoes.
As of right now, the waters of the Pacific and still colder than they were back then. If the apparent correlation between cold Pacific water temperatures and severe weather frequency verifies this spring, we could see a repeat performance. Are you ready? Do you have a dependable source for receiving severe weather information? Here are some suggestions:
Now that you have the means to receive the latest weather information, let’s go over the difference between a Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning. A watch means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to form. You can kind of think of the equation Tornado Watch = A tornado COULD happen. A warning is issued when a possible tornado is detected on radar or observed on the ground. Tornado Warning = A tornado IS happening. The same equations apply to severe thunderstorms and flash floods.
A Tornado Warning requires that you take action. If you are one of the few in our area that has a basement, seek shelter there. Otherwise, seek shelter in a small room in the middle of your home away from windows. A bathroom or hall closet is often a good shelter. Determine this location in advance and make sure everyone in your household knows where to go during a tornado warning. Some of our recent tornadoes have occurred at night when most people are sleeping.
If you live in a mobile home, remember, that it does not provide adequate shelter during a tornado. You will need to develop a more detailed plan. I discuss the how-to’s in a previous blog post here. It is looking likely that we will see an above-normal number of tornadoes across the ArkLaTex and the nation this spring. Now is the time to review your severe weather procedures to make sure that you and your family are weather ready.