How to Prepare for Severe Weather

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Severe whether isn't just inconvenient; it can be downright dangerous. Learn how to be prepared for thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and dangerous sun exposure. Check how prepared you are with a quiz.

What Is Severe Weather?

Most of the time, bad weather is just an annoying disturbance you have to put up with until it goes away. But sometimes, weather can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Hurricanes, thunderstorms, floods, tornadoes, and extreme heat all kill people every single year. Are you next? Well, probably not. The chances of you being affected is pretty small. But why take chances? There are lots of things you can do to prepare for severe weather.

Tornadoes can destroy entire buildings and tear trees out at their roots.
Tornado

Hurricanes, thunderstorms, and tornadoes are all different but they have some similar effects. Hurricanes are large, rotating storms with violent winds and heavy rain that form over water and often travel inland. Tornadoes are destructive vortexes of fast-moving winds that make a funnel shape and travel below a storm, usually across land. They're generally much smaller than hurricanes. And thunderstorms are major storms that can include thunder, high wind, lightning, and heavy rain.

Hurricanes can cover hundreds of miles.
Hurricane

All of these storms can include high winds, which can destroy buildings, smash windows, knock down trees, and knock over electrical poles, causing people to lose power. Another shared effect of these storms is flooding, as large amounts of water fall in a short period of time and rivers and creeks get overwhelmed and rise out of their banks.

Preparation Is Key

The key to surviving these kinds of severe weather events is preparation. Boy Scouts know all about this. But for the rest of us, let's go through some of the steps we can take.

  • Watch for severe weather warnings on TV or your smartphone. The National Weather Service issues tornado and hurricane warnings when the risk is high. Paying attention to watches and warnings will give you more time to take action. Listen to local news or radio or check the Internet. Some communities have warning sirens.
  • If you're home during severe weather, try to put as many walls as possible between you and the storm. Move to an interior room without windows on the lowest floor available.
  • Take loose objects that are out in your yard inside so they don't become projectiles.
  • Shutter or board up windows or at least close blinds or curtains.
  • Store important documents in an easy-to-access place in case you need to leave quickly.
  • Find out the closest evacuation center.
  • Learn how to turn off the electricity, gas, and water supplies in case they become dangerous.
  • Have an evacuation plan for your family and learn your local evacuation routes in case you need to leave town. (Sometimes roads can have lanes reversed and other routes can be closed.)

Hurricane evacuation routes are part of life in some areas of the world.
Hurricane Evacuation Sign

  • Unplug electronic equipment and avoid plumbing during severe thunderstorms.
  • Put together a disaster supply kit. Common items include: at least three days' worth of nonperishable food and water, a battery-powered radio with extra batteries, a flashlight, a first aid kit, a whistle to call for help, a dust mask, plastic and garbage bags, a wrench or pliers, a manual can opener, maps, medications, cash, blankets, a fire extinguisher, and a cell phone and solar charger.

Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure

Another kind of severe weather people don't think about much is high temperatures and sun exposure. Skin cancer is a major cause of death, and the easiest way to reduce your risk is to protect yourself from the sun by staying indoors, covering up, or using suncreen.

Staying indoors is a sure-fire way to protect your skin. On sunny days, only go out when you really need to, because the longer you're out in the sun, the greater the risk. You can also try to go out at times of the day when the sunlight is less intense--usually before noon. Staying indoors will protect you from skin cancer, as well as dehydration and heat stroke.

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