Severe Weather 101
Question: What is the difference between a watch and a warning.
A watch means that severe weather is possible in the watch area or just outside the watch area. This picture is courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center, and this watch was posted for my area on February 28th. Watches include multiple counties, and it can stretch into other states as you see this watch is in Illinois, parts of Iowa and Missouri.
Sometimes there is something called a PDS watch, Particularly Dangerous Situation. Most of these watches are issued when the SPC risk is either Moderate or High risk. These watches mean that there is a danger to life with in the area.
A warning means that a storm has become severe or tornadic on radar, or that there were reports of severe weather damage or tornadoes reported on the ground with this storm.
This warning was issued the same night of Feb 28th. Unlike watches warnings include parts of counties, and not a vast area of counties. You might hear something about polygon warnings, and that means the warning only includes parts of counties. Like in the picture above, courtesy of National Weather Service Chicago, you can see the warning includes parts of Dekalb, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Cook and Lake counties in Illinois. Everything under the red area is under the warning, like Genoa, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Batavia and Wauconda. Areas that are not under the red area are NOT included in the warning like Roselle, Inverness, Woodstock, Aroura and Fox lake. If you are not under the polygon warning you are ok. However, if you have a weather radio it will go off even if a part of your county is under a warning and you are not under the warning yourself. I live in the most southeastern parts of Lake County, and my weather radio did go off even though the warning included only western Lake County. My tip is to listen closely to what the weather radio says, it will say what cities are affected. If you have access to the internet you can go to weather.gov, put in your zip code and it will tell you if you are under the warning or not.
Q: I keep hearing about Moderate or High risk for my area, what does that mean?
This is a perfect image courtesy of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma. Remember, severe weather can happen anywhere, anytime but the risks are for the public to understand the risk. I have a personal code for each risk. Marginal: Ok fine, check the radar once in a while. Slight Risk: Check radar and the Storm Prediction Center once in a while. Enhanced: Eyes glued to Radar and check the Storm Prediction Center once in a while. Moderate: Eyes glued to both the radar and the Storm Prediction Center. High: Eyes glued to both radar and Storm Prediction Center, take laptop to basement and stay there.
Q: How do I prepare?
GET A WEATHER RADIO. It is thirty bucks at walgreens, but it’s thirty bucks that can save your life. Make sure that you have shelter in a sturdy building, if you live in a mobile home find a structure that has a foundation, mobile homes are a death trap. Prepare with canned foods, water, flashlights, water radio, candles, medications and batteries to last at least three days.
Q: What do I do if I am under a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado warning?
Go to a basement, it is the number one safest place to be during a warning. If your building doesn’t have a basement, that’s fine go into the most interior room on the lowest floor away from windows. If you live in a mobile home, get out of there since mobile homes are not sturdy, make sure you have a place to go during a warning.
If you are driving into a storm and you are caught off guard, turn on the radio to see what the storm is doing. Also fallow your gut, if there is a lot of lightning, pea sized hail and it’s more a storm that I call ‘it’s bark is worse than it’s bite’ pull over to the side of the road and wait for the storm to pass. If you feel like you are in danger, hail is big and the wind is strong try to get to a sturdy structure for safety. If there is no way for you go get somewhere safe, go into a ditch and cover your head with your hands and wait it out.
Another severe weather hazard that is often overlooked is flash flooding. A lot of deaths come from people who drive into flooded roadways and find their cars floating away.
Please don’t drive into a flood. TURN AROUND, DONT DROWN