By Peggy Kindiger
After an extended, cool winter we’re all looking forward to the longer sunny days and warmer weather that heralds spring. Are you already preparing garden and flower beds in anticipation of the soaking rains that will turn dry seeds to future harvest of fruits, vegetables, and flowers?
That being said, the mix of warm, sunny days, and high humidity, combined with a good dollop of cold air from the north, can produce the conditions responsible for cooking up some intense thunderstorms replete with lightning, hail, and tornadoes.
The Midwest in general and Oklahoma in particular are home to springtime severe weather. Here’s what an impending thunderstorm looked like from my backyard:
The chart below illustrates the three stages of a thunderstorm, from the initial accumulation of moisture to the final release of energy in the form of rain. More detailed information on the formation of storms can be found in one of the library’s books listed below.
Unfortunately, these fascinating storms can also produce large hail, strong winds and even tornadoes. Don’t wait until the cumulus clouds turn dark and angry to think about taking shelter! Prepare now for tornado season. Here are a few tips:
Check your local forecast on radio and/or TV frequently for updates. Add a weather app from your favorite station to your smartphone. Go outside occasionally and scan the sky for changing conditions. The book The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs (found below) will tell you what to look for. Know the difference between a storm watch and a storm warning. A watch means that conditions are favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms or tornadoes, but they are not imminent. Check local sources frequently for updates. A warning means that a storm is imminent or actually occurring and immediate action must be taken.
Watches and warnings:
If you have a basement or storm shelter, stock it with an emergency kit containing the following items:
- Water and canned or dried food – families should set aside one gallon of water per person per day, to last three days, and a three-day supply of food per person. Include a can opener!
- Battery powered radio tuned to your local emergency station.
- Extra batteries for the radio and flashlight.
- Prescription medications.
- First-aid kit.
- List of important contact numbers.
If you don’t have your own shelter, make arrangements with nearby relatives/friends/neighbors or find the nearest designated storm shelter and know the best route to get there. If you’re thinking of building your own shelter, the library can help you with that! See Taking Shelter from the Storm, listed below,
(Please note – the El Reno Carnegie Library is NOT a storm shelter!)
This spring get to know your neighbors and the locations of the nearest storm shelters. Keep an eye on the sky and be aware of weather conditions. And when those luscious summer fruits and vegetables are finally ripe, get together with others and have a meal to celebrate getting through another Oklahoma storm season!
Below is a partial list of books you can find in our library that will explain the dynamics of storms, give instructions on building a storm shelter, and teach you to predict the weather using nature’s signs.
What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley, by Kim Cross — 363.34 CRO
In the Shadow of the Tornado, by Richard Bedard — 551.5 BED
Adventures in Tornado Alley: The Storm Chasers, by Mike Hollingshead & Eric Nguyen — 551.5 HOL
Extreme Weather: Understanding the Science of Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods, Heat Waves, Snow Storms, Global Warming and other Atmospheric Disturbances, by Michael H. Mogil — 551.5 MOG
Storms, by Seymour Simon – 551.5 SIM J (children’s book)
Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-defying Adventures in Extreme Weather, by Reed Timmer — 551.5 TIM
Taking Shelter From the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House, by Federal Emergency Management Agency — 690 FED
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals, and Other Forgotten Skills, by Tristan Gooley — 796.5 GOO
https://www.cdc.gov/features/springweather/index.html “Prepare for spring weather”
https://www.weather.gov/oun/safety-severe-stayingsafe “Staying safe During Severe Weather”