Spring arrives this weekend, and sometimes, it means storms

Published 3:03 pm Friday, March 19, 2021

The arrival of spring occurs today — to be exact at 5:37 a.m. We have already had a taste of the spring season with some warm days, early bloomers, and the greening of the grass. What does the coming of spring mean?
Essentially, our hours of daylight — the period of time each day between sunrise and sunset — have been growing slightly longer each day since the winter solstice in December, which is the shortest day of the year (at least in terms of light).
For many of us, spring has become more about enjoying the weather, spending time out of doors, planting flowers or gardening, and even decorating Easter eggs to prepare for the upcoming holiday.
Spring represents new beginnings. The plants are coming to life again, the trees have buds on them, and new things such as dandelions are popping right out of the ground. Everywhere you look, the colors are changing from brown to green.
But, just as spring ushers in warmer temperatures and longer days, it is a season that produce severe weather in the form of thunderstorms, tornadoes, or flooding, With some severe weather this week in parts of the South, the American Red Cross urges people to take steps to prepare for the unexpected.
Thunderstorms produce lightning, which unfortunately kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Their heavy rains can cause flash flooding and their strong winds can damage homes and cause power outages. Tornadoes can occur anywhere. They are violent and capable of destroying homes and businesses and leaving people with nothing. Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Flash floods occur suddenly, due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area.
There are steps people should take now to be ready if a weather emergency threatens their community. Planning is the key according to the American Red Cross. Being prepared is just a few short steps away:
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM SAFETY TIPS
Know the difference
– Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
– Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Leave manufactured homes which can blow over in high winds.
– Listen to local area radio, NOAA radio or TV stations for the latest information and updates.
– Listen for the sound of thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
– Check emergency kit and replenish any items missing or in short supply. Keep it nearby.
– If planning a trip or extended period of time outdoors, be aware of the weather forecast.
– Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent.
– Keep an eye on the sky. Look for darkening skies, flashes of lightning, or increasing wind, which may be signs of an approaching thunderstorm.
– Be aware of your surroundings. Look for places you could go if severe weather threatens such as local shelters, churches, local Red Cross locations. If possible, stay in warm/dry areas if possible.
– Even if there is no official thunderstorm warning, if you see signs of a thunderstorm, take precautions.
STAYING SAFE DURING A STORM
Use a NOAA Weather Radio or listen to a local station on a battery-powered radio or television for updated emergency information. If the power goes out, you still have access to important information.
Draw the blinds and shades over the windows. If windows break because objects are blown by wind or large hail, the shades will help prevent glass from shattering into your home.
Unplug and avoid any electrical appliances and/or the telephone. If lightning strikes, telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.
IF CAUGHT OUTSIDE
Find shelter immediately. If you are boating or swimming get out of the water and get to land and get off the beach. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity.
Take shelter in a substantial, permanent, enclosed structure, such as a reinforced building. A sturdy building is the safest place to be. Avoid gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, golf carts, baseball dugouts, bleachers, and other isolated structures in otherwise open areas, because such places are often struck by lightning.
If there is no reinforced building in sight, take shelter in a vehicle. Keep the windows closed and avoid convertibles. Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning, but the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
If you are in the woods, find an area protected by a low clump of trees. Never stand beneath a single large tree in the open.
As a last resort and if no suitable structure or vehicle is available, go to a low-lying open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Crouch low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees and your head between your knees. Minimize your contact with the ground as lightning current often enters a victim through the ground rather than by a direct overhead strike.
Avoid the following: Tall structures, such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, and power lines. Natural lightning rods, such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, and camping equipment.
If you are isolated in a level field and you feel your hair stand on end (indicating that lightning is about to strike), crouch low to the ground on the balls of your feet.
It’s that time of year and we must be prepared for weather that can strike on warm afternoons and nights. We must always be prepared, and the time to do it is now.

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