Thunderstorm and Tornado Safety

When I was in undergrad, my friend and I had a tornado plan: Since our apartment was so close to the stadium, the spirit of Bear Bryant would keep the stadium safe and by extension our apartment. NOT the best plan.

With the spring weather period approaching, I thought we should discuss issues associated with severe thunderstorms and tornados so you can make an informed and APPROPRIATE severe weather plan. 

The most important thing you can do during a severe weather outbreak is stay calm, rational, vigilant, and informed.  Knowing the difference between a watch and a warning is very important.  A watch means that conditions are right for severe weather to occur.  A warning means that severe weather is occurring.  Warnings are issued by the local weather service county-by county, and are given 30 min to an hour in advance.  Tracking severe thunderstorms and tornados is not an exact science which is why you should respect warnings and take safety precautions.

The most important piece of equipment you can have for severe weather is a battery operated radio.  A weather radio is great, but any battery operated radio will work so you can keep track of severe weather if the power should go out.  Also, have a flashlight and extra batteries handy in case of power outages.

Aside from having a weather radio, there a few other general precautions you can take to protect yourself and your belongings during a severe weather outbreak. These include:

  • Have all electronics on a surge protector and unplug electronics if you are home.
  • Avoid the shower, dish washing, or doing laundry
  • Store away outside items that could become flying debris
  • Bring in your pets
  • Stay away from windows and doors
  • If you are outdoors, seek shelter your car.
  • Have renter’s insurance

For a comprehensive list of safety precautions for you, your family, and your property, you can visit the weather channel’s website or you can check out FEMA’s emergency kit list. Each severe weather event has specific procedures that are unique to each one.  Here are the most common types of severe weather for our area and tips for keeping you safe:

Severe Thunderstorms and Lightning
All thunderstorms are dangerous because of lightning, period.  More people are killed each year by lightning than tornadoes.  Please take thunderstorms seriously, and seek appropriate shelter.  A thunderstorm is considered severe when it produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado. Here are some tips for thunderstorms:

  • Seek shelter indoors away from windows, doors, and any water source such as the kitchen sink or shower.  If outdoors seek shelter in your car.
  • Unplug valuable electronics and always have them on a surge protector in case you are not home.
  • Shut blinds and curtains.  If the window were to break because of wind or hail, then the covering will keep glass from shattering into your home.

Tornado Warning
Anyone who has grown-up in Alabama knows about tornado season.  Tornado season occurs in Alabama in the spring from March until May and in the fall from late October until November.  You shouldn’t be afraid of severe weather, but respect it and accept it as a part of living in Alabama.  There are several precautions you can take to ensure your safety during a tornado:

  • Find a place in the center of your house or apartment on the lowest floor away from windows and doors. If you are on one of the top floors, it is a good idea to make plans with neighbors on the lower floors to seek shelter in their apartment.
  • Cover yourself with a blanket to protect from debris. Don’t use a mattress because you don’t want to take the time to haul mattresses to your safe place.
  • Keep windows closed.  The idea that a house will explode due to pressure differences is an old wives tale.  You are far more likely to get hurt by debris flying through an open window.
  • Make arrangements for your pets ahead of time. If you hear there is a warning get the carrier out and take them with you to the safe place.

If you are interested in reading in-depth coverage about severe weather please visit:

*These websites also serve as my references, as well as, years of watching severe weather coverage from ABC 33/40’s James Spann. I am a total dork.

ABC 33/40’s weather team also keeps an informative weather blog, and I highly recommend it to keep track of local weather forecasts.

Please keep in mind that this post was not meant to alarm you, but to make you think about things you can do to keep yourself and your property safe during severe weather outbreaks. Remember, there is nothing we can do to prevent Mother Nature except be informed and take proper precautions.

À la prochain,


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