Each year the ArkLaMiss is impacted by severe weather, namely severe thunderstorms, without fail. The basic definition of a severe thunderstorm is a thunderstorm that produces damaging winds that are at least 58 MPH, hail that is at least 1” in diameter, or a tornado. Of course, there are other damaging events that are associated with a thunderstorm that can occur like straight-line winds, lightning, and heavy rain.

Before we get into how to prepare and protect yourself and your property during a severe thunderstorm it is important to know the difference between a thunderstorm watch and a thunderstorm warning.

Thunderstorm Watch Thunderstorm Warning
– Be prepared for severe weather!
– Severe thunderstorms are in the area, stay informed and ready in case a severe thunderstorm warning is issued.
– Prepare to go to your safe space or shelter
– Cupcake analogy: you have the flour, butter, eggs, and all the other ingredients but, there is no cupcake yet.
– A severe thunderstorm has been reported or radar indicated.
– There is imminent danger to life and property for the area where the warning is issued.
– Take shelter immediately.
-Cupcake analogy: the ingredients are mixed, the cupcake is out of the oven and ready to be eaten!

How to protect yourself and property for specific parts of a thunderstorm:

Damaging Winds and straight-line winds: First let’s define what straight-line winds are. They refer to winds that are not rotating or varying with height, they move forward along the ground in one direction. Some straight-line winds can reach speeds of up to 100 MPH! Sometimes, these winds can be mistaken for a tornado due to the damage they can cause like uprooting trees and damaging buildings. But, they are different because straight-line winds do not rotate. If hail happens to be occurring at the same time, the damage caused will likely be even worse.

How to protect yourself during this type of event is to stay in a study building, in the innermost room away from windows, on the lowest level. You can treat how you prepare for this like you would for a tornado. As for your property, secure all belongings that could easily turn into debris.

Hail: Hail that is about 1” can also be called quarter-sized, because it’s about the size of a quarter. This size or larger is considered to be severe. Hail can be as small as pea-sized to as large as softball size.

To prepare for hail, put your vehicles under a covering, but not an overpass. Make sure you and your pets are in a sturdy building, in the innermost room, away from windows. If you happen to be driving and come into contact with hail, turn around as soon as you can, you could be entering the center/ core of the thunderstorm. It is always helpful to report hail with its propper size to officials as soon as it is safe to do so.

Lightning: All thunderstorms produce lightning, thunder is what comes after the strike. Each time a bolt of lightning strikes from a cloud to the ground, it has the potential to cause damage and even death.

The easiest thing to remember about lightning safety is “when thunder roars, stay indoors”.

Tornado: Keep a lookout on myarklamiss.com/extra for a tornado safety breakdown coming soon.