The new year is starting quietly in regards to severe weather, but as the weather warms, the threat for severe weather increases.
The last time Southwest Louisiana was put under a severe weather watch was on December 21 of last year. Even with the slow start, now is the time to prepare and make a game plan to keep both you and your family safe.
Governor Bobby Jindal has designated the week of February 16-22 as "Severe Weather Awareness Week". The objectives of this week are to review severe weather safety plans, to understand the threats severe weather poses, and to be ready to act when severe weather strikes.
Know the Difference (Watch vs. Warning)
A Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms. Watches can be issued for large areas and can come in a variety of forms including: Tornado, Severe Thunderstorm, or Flood. If a watch is issued for your area, make sure you have a plan in place, just in case your area is put under a warning, and as always, stay up-to-date on the latest weather information.
A Warning is issued when severe weather is occurring or has been detected based on radar information. As with watches, warnings are issued in a variety of forms such as Tornado, Severe Thunderstorm, or Flood, but warnings are much smaller and are issued based on individual storms. If a warning is issued, this is the time when you should put your plan into action and take shelter immediately.
Severe Weather Criteria
The National Weather Service recognizes the following criteria as active severe weather: hail one inch in diameter or larger, which equates to a quarter-size or greater; wind gusts greater than 58 mph; observed damage such as fallen trees or property damage; observation of a tornado, which is a funnel cloud that is in contact with the ground; or flooding that is leading to property damage. If you ever experience any of these during active weather, safely report the information to your local National Weather Service, media outlets, or law enforcement.
Weather Safety Tips
TORNADO - In the event that a tornado warning is issued, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor of your home, and put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. If you live in a mobile home, always evacuate the residence and take shelter in a sturdy building.
THUNDERSTORM - When thunderstorms are present, always take shelter inside a sturdy building and never shelter under trees. If possible, delay outdoor activities when thunderstorms are likely. Remember, lightning is not a severe weather criterion but can still be deadly.
FLOOD - During floods avoid traveling if possible, and never drive through flooded roadways. If you live in a flood prone area, seek higher ground if a warning is issued.
Stay ahead of the storm
Residents can always take steps to protect their life and property from severe weather, and it starts with getting a game plan. For more information, residents can go to the Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness web site: http://getagameplan.org/.
To stay one step ahead of severe weather, make sure to purchase a Midland Weather Radio at your local Walgreens to get automatic alerts when severe weather strikes.
Stay tuned to the 7 Stormteam throughout severe weather season, as we keep you up-to-date on the latest weather information. Make sure to check your daily forecast on www.kplctv.com/weather.