Spring Severe Weather Safety

Spring is finally here, and with it plenty of sunshine and warmer days. But spring also brings the threat of severe weather, including thunderstorms, strong winds and/or tornadoes, lightning and flash flooding. Read on for our O’Fallon Fire Protection District-approved spring weather safety tips.

What’s the difference between a warning and a watch?

A watch indicates that the potential exists for the development of severe weather. During a watch, you should keep up to date on the current weather situation and be prepared to seek shelter if necessary.

A warning is more serious and requires more immediate action. It indicates that severe weather conditions are occurring or imminent.

What should you do if sirens go off?

Sirens indicate an immediate danger. When you hear sirens, you should seek shelter indoors and tune into local media or your NOAA Weather Radio for more information.

What should you include in an emergency kit?

Spring weather can be very unpredictable and conditions can change rapidly. Putting together an emergency kit ahead of time is one of the best ways you can help protect your loved ones.

Emergency kits should include:

  • Battery-operated flashlight
  • Battery-operated NOAA weather radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid supplies
  • A 3-5 day supply of water and nonperishable food, plus personal hygiene items
  • Blankets and sleeping bags.

You should also prepare an emergency evacuation or shelter plan, and compile a list of important personal information that is easily accessible (including important phone numbers, insurance information and medical information).

What are some other ways you can prepare your home for severe spring weather?

In addition to creating an emergency kit and designating an emergency evacuation or shelter plan for severe weather, you can also take a few simple steps to make sure your home is prepared for severe weather. Remove diseased/damaged limbs from trees, which could become dangerous during strong winds. Secure lawn furniture, trash cans and any other outdoor items that could be picked up by the wind.

Severe storms: Keep an eye out for signs of a coming storm, including darkening skies, increasing winds or flashes of lightning. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be in danger from lightning, which kills 40-50 people per year. Postpone outdoor activities if a storm is imminent; lightning often strikes where it is not raining. Instead, take shelter in a sturdy building or vehicle, with doors and windows securely fastened. Stay away from windows and avoid taking a bath, shower or using plumbing until the storm has passed.

Flash flooding: Flash floods occur when water rises rapidly along a stream or low-lying area. Stay away from floodwaters — as little as 6 inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off your feet. If you come upon moving water that is above your ankles, turn around and go another direction. Cars can also be easily swept away. Never underestimate the force and power of water; turn around, don’t drown!

Tornadoes: There are several distinct things to look out for that indicate a tornado may be on its way: dark, often greenish clouds, large hail, a funnel or wall cloud, or a roaring noise. Make sure you and your family members are familiar with the local warning system, and designate a safe room (ideally a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor without windows) where everyone can meet.