By Paula Walter
Spring, despite giving anticipated relief from the cold winter months, often brings with it heavy rains, floods, thunderstorms, tornadoes and disaster. It has been two years since a tornado touched down in Johnson County, bringing with it destruction and death as it ravaged the countryside.
While no month of the year is free from tornadoes, March, April and May often see the most severe weather. Tornadoes, columns of air that rotate and descent from thunderstorms, bring violent winds, up to 300 miles per hour. A watch issued by the National Weather Service indicates conditions are conducive for the development of a tornado, while a warning announces activity has been spotted by radar or a tornado has touched ground. If a warning has been issued, it is time to seek shelter as tornadoes can travel as fast as 70 miles per hour. Time is of the essence.
Preparation in advance of dangerous weather saves lives. Make a family plan so each member knows where to go in the event of a severe thunderstorm, tornado or flood. A basement that is below ground level or the lowest floor of the structure you are in will provide the most safety in the event of tornado activity. Seek an interior room such as a closet, bathroom or inside hallway. Pillows, blankets and quilts can provide protection from flying objects. If you live in a mobile home, evacuate the building and seek shelter in a more secure location. Should you be traveling in your vehicle and a tornado is spotted, lie flat in the closest ditch you can locate, making sure to cover your head with your hands to protect yourself from debris. No matter where you seek shelter, stay away from windows. There is no truth to the adage opening windows will equalize the pressure in the house and offer protection.
Each year, lightening kills more than 60 people. If you hear thunder, there is a danger of lightening. Experts agree you should go indoors, stay away from windows, doors and avoid using your landline telephone. As lightening can travel through electrical lines, turn off or unplug your appliances. If you are in a car and it has a hard top, remain inside and roll the windows up. If you are outside and you notice your skin begins to tingle or your hair stands on end, a lightening strike may be imminent. Experts advise to stoop down on the balls of your feet, keeping them close together. Your hands should stay on your knees and bend your head down. The idea is to get as low as you can without your hands and knees coming into contact with the ground. It is imperative you do not lie down. Should you be out in the water during a storm, get to land and seek shelter. If you are in a boat and cannot make it to land, crouch down in the middle of the boat or take shelter below. If you are on land when the storm strikes, find a low spot among shorter trees, stay away from the tree trunks and metal objects such as fences and pipes.
Floodwaters are extremely dangerous and powerful. Stay away from drainage ditches, creeks and streams. Do not attempt to walk or drive across a flooded road or bridges. Two feet of water can carry a vehicle away. Flash flooding often strikes with no warning and you should be prepared to move to higher ground. Should your car stall while you are driving in rising waters, get out and abandon the vehicle.
Take the time to create a disaster kit in advance of inclement weather. Make sure it contains a first aid kit with antiseptics such as alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, band-aids, antibiotic ointments, scissors, tweezers, hand sanitizer or soap and sterile eyewash. Prescription medications should be included, along with antihistamines, aspirin and other non-aspirin pain relievers. The kit should also contain emergency phone numbers, a medical consent form and medical history for all your family members, a flash light with extra batteries and extra blankets. Include canned foot items, a can opener, bottled water and some additional clothes, as well as a battery-powered radio. Take a look at the kit every three months to keep it updated and ready at a moments notice.
A weather alert radio will alert you to impeding dangerous weather. You might consider purchasing one that has an emergency battery back up in case of a power outage. They can be purchased at many retail stores and online, and locally at Freds and Tru-Value.
By Paula Walter