Severe Storm Season is Right Around the Corner

By: Meteorologist Aaron Blaser Email
By: Meteorologist Aaron Blaser Email

Stay up-to-date with KAKE News:

While severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can occur in Kansas year-round, the main season for these potentially deadly storms is March through June. Here are some facts about Kansas storms and tips on how to survive them.

Surviving a Kansas Storm Season

When it comes to tornado safety, there is not any fool proof measure that can guarantee your safety. However, by following the tips listed below, your chances of survival are greatly increased.

Be Weather Smart:

  • Always check with KAKE or NOAA weather radio/internet to get the forecast for the day. Are there storms forecast later? Awareness is the first step for survival.

    Monitor the Weather Through the Day:

  • Are the skies darkening?
    A Tornado Watch might have been issued for your area. A Tornado Watch is issued when weather conditions are coming together for thunderstorms that could produce tornadoes later in the next several hours. This is when you monitor KAKE or NOAA weather radio/internet occasionally for the latest updates or warnings.

    Signs a nearby storm COULD be developing a Tornado:

  • Look for approaching storms which:
    a. May include a dark greenish tint, this indicates hail larger than quarters.
    b. Produce a loud roaring noise of rushing wind
    c. Look for ragged lowerings in the clouds, (This is important, possible funnel clouds/tornadoes have HORIZONTAL rotation, NOT VERTICAL. While tornadoes “drop down” from the sky, their rotation is from side to side.)

    A Tornado Warning is issued when either and/or both of these events occur:

  • Doppler radar has detected rotating winds near the ground under a storm which could develop into a tornado at any time.

  • A tornado has actually been spotted under a storm.

    What to do when a Tornado Warning has been issued for my area:

  • Get constant and continuous updates on the storm from KAKE and/or your NOAA weather radio/internet.

    Where to go when a Tornado Warning has been issued for your area:

    Indoors:

  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of your building (if you are in a multi-level office or apartment complex).

  • If there is no basement, go to an interior room in the center of the building on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway, bathroom) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. The key here is to put as many walls between you and the outside.

    (In addition: no matter where you hide, get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.)

    In your car/truck:

    This is among one of the “worst case scenarios” you could be in, but TIMING is the key here for maximizing your odds for survival.

  • Your first option might be driving away from the danger (ONLY IF THE TORNADO IS NOT IMMEDIATELY CLOSE TO YOU AND HAVE TIME TO ACT). Notice the direction of movement of the tornado and drive at a right angle to a shelter/building. Remember to drive at a right angle, never try to outrun the tornado.

  • IF THE TORNADO IS VERY CLOSE TO YOU AND YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO ACT, get out of your vehicle and lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.

    I know. This sounds crazy! But the odds of the tornado actually moving over the ground where you are lying are remote; you are simply maximizing your odds of survival.

  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

  • When driving at night in truly nasty conditions, the tornado may be nearly impossible to see. Err on the side of caution and get out of your vehicle and into a sturdy shelter or nearby ditch. Be aware of standing water in the ditch.

    In a trailer or mobile home:

    THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST CASE SCENARIO!
    TRAILERS AND MOBILE HOMES ARE SIMPLY “MOBILE”, THEY ARE NOT BUILT TO BE “PERMANENT” STRUCTURES AND ARE NOT BUILT TO WITHSTAND STRONG WINDS!!

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby PERMANENT building or a community storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. The thin metal of mobile homes cannot withstand/protect from wind-blown debris hitting your home.

    If this information is hard to remember, just remember the word DUCK:
    Down to the lowest level
    Under something sturdy
    Cover your head
    Keep in shelter until the storm passes

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    Severe Thunderstorms: Most Damaging to Kansas Property

    What is a Severe Thunderstorm Watch?

    A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when weather conditions are coming together for the development of strong or severe thunderstorms. These storms can produce gusty winds or large hail—while a tornado is POSSIBLE, they are not EXPECTED.
    Keep tuned to KAKE or NOAA weather radio/internet occasionally for any updates.

    What is a Severe Thunderstorm Warning?

    A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when a storm has the potential or is currently producing any/all of the following:

  • Damaging winds exceeding 58 MPH
  • Hail the size of quarters or larger

    If a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued for your area, get constant and updated storm information from KAKE or your NOAA weather radio/internet.

    Why should I be concerned about severe thunderstorms if they don’t have any tornadoes?

    In Kansas, more property is damaged and more people are threatened by severe thunderstorm winds than tornadoes. In most years, thunderstorm winds cause more damage, and are more frequent than tornadoes. Severe wind from a thunderstorm can approach 120 mph!

    This wind can easily pick up lawn furniture, roofing tiles, or tree branches and hurl them into your windows.

    On June 19th, 1990, a cluster of severe thunderstorms moved through the city of Wichita, producing a large area of 100+ MPH winds several miles wide, this storm damaged hundreds of homes and businesses, producing over $50 MILLION in damage, becoming one of the city’s most costly disasters.

    Severe thunderstorms can also carry damaging hail up to the size of baseballs or larger! This hail can be deadly if caught outdoors at a sporting event or other function.

    There is often little warning of damaging thunderstorm winds, so take severe thunderstorm warnings seriously.

    To be safe from strong thunderstorm winds, go inside a sturdy building but stay away from windows that could break. If available, get to a basement or underground shelter. Large hail and flooding rains may accompany strong winds, so be alert to these dangers.

    Stay informed about the weather at all times by watching KAKE or your NOAA weather radio/internet!

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    Flooding: Kansas’ Deadliest Storm Threat

    Did you know that floods, especially flash foods, kill more Kansans on average each year than any other weather phenomenon?

    Why?

    Well, the main reason is that with today’s busy lifestyle and the need to “just get there”, people underestimate or simply don’t pay attention to the force and power of water. As little as six inches of fast moving water can sweep you off your feet and 18 to 24 inches of water is enough to float a car/SUV and carry it away.

  • If you drive upon a flooded roadway, or encounter a road barrier warning you of a flooded roadway, then “Turn Around. Don’t Drown!”
    You will not know the depth of the water or know the condition of the road under the water (was the pavement washed away?).

    Helpful safety rules to adhere to:

  • When heavy rains threaten, monitor KAKE or your NOAA weather radio/internet for the latest weather information.

  • If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Leave low-lying areas subject to flooding, such as dips, low spots and underpasses. Avoid areas that are already flooded. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams and never drive through flooded roadways.

  • If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Look for a floatation device. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to see flood dangers.

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    Lightning: Kansas’ Fastest Killer

    All thunderstorms produce lightning and you might be surprised to know that in the United States, there are an estimated 25 million lightning flashes each year.

    During the past 30 years, lightning has killed an average of 62 people per year across the country. This ties the average of 62 deaths per year caused by tornadoes.

    Lightning injures about 300 people in the United States on average every year.

    Why don’t I hear more about this threat?

    Because lightning usually claims only one or two victims at a time and does not cause mass destruction of property, it is underrated as a risk and gets little media attention.

    Why do you say lightning is the “fastest killer”?

    A lightning bolt can strike the ground in a fraction of a second with very little warning, if you are under that bolt, you can be seriously injured or killed.

    How can I protect myself from lightning?

    Watch for Approaching Thunderstorms:
    Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from an area where it is raining. That's about the distance you can hear thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Go indoors immediately!

    When you are outdoors:
    The key here is minimizing the risk of being struck. If at a sporting event, golf course or other outdoor function, go inside the nearest building or enclosed car.
    DO NOT STAND UNDER TREES OR NEAR SWIMMING POOLS OR OTHER BODIES OF WATER!!

    Things to avoid when indoors:
    While rare, you can still be struck by lightning while indoors. Lightning can travel through wiring or metal pipes if your house/building is struck.

    If you are inside a building:

  • Stay off corded phones (cordless phone are safe), computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct/close contact with electrical outlets.

  • Stay away from pools, indoor or outdoor, tubs, showers/sinks and other plumbing.

  • When inside, wait 30 minutes after the last strike or clap of thunder, before going outside again.

    To protect expensive household items from damage, buy surge suppressors/protectors for key equipment. Install ground fault protectors on circuits near water or outdoors.


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