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As part of severe weather awareness week in Missouri, tornado sirens will sound across the state next Tuesday afternoon, March 5.
The drill, which is conducted in cooperation with the National Weather Service, is set to begin at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon.
The State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) will monitor the test by keeping in touch with local emergency management agencies across the state to determine the effectiveness of the annual drill.
Locally, Ava-Douglas County Emergency Management Director Billy Long said all schools will be contacted as well as major employers where a large number of people might be gathered at a given time.
The entire drill will take about 15 minutes.
If you are in an area where you can hear the outside storm warning siren, you should practice, or at least think about where you would take shelter during severe weather. If you are not where you can hear an outdoor siren, listen for the broadcast on radio or television and, again, consider what you would do in the event of an actual emergency.
While the statewide emergency drill is generally referred to as a “tornado” drill, strong thunderstorms, dangerous lightning and flash floods are much more prevalent in this area – but, you should never rule out the possibility of a tornado when severe weather is in the area.
Thunderstorms accompanied by lightning are frequent occurrences in Missouri during the spring and summer months. Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters, or in lines. Some of the most severe thunderstorms occur when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.
Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for 30 minutes to an hour. Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development. About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe – one that produces hail at least three-quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado.
Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction. Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening. Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000, but can be reduced even further by following safety precautions.
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a thunderstorm hazard:
Severe Thunderstorm Watches are issued to tell you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur.
Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.
Create a plan for you and your family in the event of a thunderstorm – at home, at work and at relatives’ or friends’ homes that you visit frequently. Always be alert to changing weather conditions.
Because thunderstorms can generate dangerously strong winds and have the potential to produce tornadoes, the same precautions should be taken for thunderstorms that you would for a tornado.
Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades, or curtains.
Listen to radio, television, or NOAA Weather Radio for weather reports and emergency information.
Although it is impossible to totally escape lightning, several precautions can be taken to lessen the chance of injury or property damage.
Postpone outdoor activities. Remember “If thunder roars, go indoors” because no place outside is safe when lightning is in the area. Everyone should stay indoors until 30 minutes after they hear the last clap of thunder.
Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
Avoid showering or bathing and any contact with plumbing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity. Do not wash your hands, wash dishes or do laundry.
Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use. Use a corded telephone only for emergencies.
Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords.
Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
Because concrete conducts electricity, do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
Everyone should stay indoors until 30 minutes after they hear the last clap of thunder.
If you find yourself outside when a thunderstorm hits, avoid the following:
Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
Hilltops, open fields, the beach, or a boat on the water.
Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
Anything metal – tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.
If you are in certain situations, do the following:
In a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
In an open area, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.
On open water, get to land and find shelter immediately.
Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike), squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees.
Floods are a common hazard in Missouri. Flood effects can be local, impacting a neighborhood or community, or very large, affecting entire river basins and multiple states. And there are major differences between flash floods and those that develop slowly, over a period of days and even weeks.
As the name indicates, flash floods can develop quickly, sometimes in just a few minutes and without any visible signs of rain. Flash floods often have a dangerous wall of roaring water that carries rocks, mud, and other debris and can sweep away most things in their paths.
Be aware of flood hazards no matter where you live, but especially if you live in a low-lying area, near water or downstream from a dam. Even very small streams, gullies, creeks, culverts, dry streambeds, or low-lying ground that appears harmless in dry weather can flood and become potentially dangerous.
If you have to leave your home, remember these evacuation tips:
Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away. Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control and possible stalling.
A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles and pickups.