Severe weather season approaching; how to prepare

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Here in Central Pennsylvania the National Weather Service designates May, June and July as severe weather season. “The vast majority of severe storms occur here in May, June and the first part of July. Between Memorial Day and Fourth of July. That is the prime time for severe weather,” said Eric Horst, Director of the weather center at Millersville University.

That means now is a good time to prepare. “When severe weather happens here only a few days a year, it’s tough to get really dialed in what to do, how to prepare,” said Eric Horst.

“It’s important to know the difference between a watch and a warning, with a tornado watch, that’s when you want to start thinking about what you want to do, where you can take cover. A thunderstorm or tornado watch, that means conditions are right for something to form although nothing has formed yet,” said Horst. “You want to unplug sensitive electronics and get in patio furniture and other things that aren’t tied down.” These items can turn into projectiles, and cause serious damage or injury.

A warning is more serious. “When you hear a warning, that escalates it. If there is a tornado warning that means a tornado has been spotted, or touched down, that’s when you absolutely have to take cover,” said Horst.

The basement is the safest place. “Without a basement you want an interior room. Ideally one without windows, like a bathroom, a hallway, underneath a stairwell,” said Horst. “Most injury and death from tornadoes is from flying debris. The last place you want to be is outside or even near a window where debris can fly through the window and hit you.”

If you live in a mobile home, get out. Go to a neighbor’s home or a designated shelter. “If you’re in a mobile home the best thing is to get out of it. Even if it’ a tied down mobile home, tornadoes are strong enough, even straight line winds are strong enough, to topple the mobile home,” said Horst.

Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If you are far enough away try to drive out of the tornado’s path. You can do this by making right angle turns away from the tornado. If this is not an option, get out of the car as soon as possible. Look for shelter in a sturdy building or find a ditch and lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms.

“If there’s no other option buckle yourself in your car, duck down, below the level of the windows, and wait for the storm to pass,” said Horst.