Storm Preparedness for Natural Disasters

Learn about basic storm preparedness for natural disasters, what you need to know to prepare for lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, flash flooding and excessive heat.


| August/September 2000



Basic storm preparedness

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones in which winds reach a constant speed of 74 mph or greater.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/LEONARD ZHUKOVSKY

All you need to know about basic storm preparedness for the homestead. 

Lightning

It is estimated that 100,000 thunderstorms occur each year in the United States, and that approximately 10% of those can be classified as severe. The National Weather Service classifies a thunderstorm as severe if it produces hail 3/4-inches in diameter and winds of 58 mph or greater.

Thunderstorms can occur at anytime of the day or night and at anytime of the year, however most occur in the afternoon or evening hours of spring and summer months . . . and all produce lightning. Lightning kills about 90 people and injures nearly 300 each year. It is generally classified as high or low voltage and high or low amperage. The low-power lightning bolts are also known as hot lightning bolts. They have low voltage but high amperage and a relatively long duration (about 1/10th of a second). This combination bolt produces tremendous heat and can reach temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (hotter than the sun). Cold lightning, on the other hand, is high voltage, low amperage and has geometrically greater power. Cold bolts can have up to ten times the voltage of hot lightning, but they last only about 1/10,000th of a second. They are often responsible for massive destruction.

WHAT TO DO: When it comes to basic storm preparedness if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. If possible, get inside a sturdy building. Such areas as sheds, tents, cars and under isolated trees are not acceptable. If a hard top automobile is your only option, roll up the windows and do not touch any metal surfaces. Contrary to generations of dangerously misguided lore, the rubber tires of autos do not offer full protection, as the steel frame can transmit electrical energy. You may still be injured in the vehicle, but much less so than if you were outside. If you are involved in watersports, get to land, get out of the boat and away from the water. Do not shower or bathe. Use telephones only for emergencies, unplug any appliances, turn off air conditioners. If you are outside and remote from any safe shelter, find a low area that is not subject to flash flooding and is away from trees, fences, poles, etc. If you are in wooded areas, seek shelter under the shorter trees. If at any point you feel your hair stand on end or your skin tingle, you must immediately make yourself the smallest target possible. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, place your head between your knees and put your hands on your knees. Minimize any contact with the ground.

Tornadoes

The most violent storms in the world cause an average of 82 deaths in the U.S. annually. Tornadoes can occur at anytime of the year, but in the Southern states they tend to occur in the spring (summer in the North). Most tornado deaths occur while people are in autos or mobile homes.

WHAT TO DO: A tornado warning indicates a need to take shelter immediately (not to be confused with the less severe "watch"). If you are at home or in a small building, go to the basement or to an interior room of the lowest floor. If possible, take cover under a large immovable object such as a workbench. Wrap yourself in heavy blankets or coats to protect from flying debris, and put on any motorcycle or bicycle helmets. If you are in a large public building, stay away from glass-enclosed areas or areas with a wide roof span, such as gymnasiums or auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down, roll into a ball and cover your head with your hands. This position protects most vital organ areas. If you are in a car or a mobile home, abandon them immediately, go to a sturdy structure or a designated tornado shelter. If there is no suitable structure nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression in the ground and cover your head with your hands.





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