An amazing number of friends and customers have commented that this will be their first summer in the Midwest. Here’s Wallypop’s Handy and Only Slightly Sarcastic Guide to Summer Weather in Iowa.
1. There is either a drought or flooding. There is no middle ground.
2. A tornado watch means that conditions are right for a tornado to develop. A synonym for “tornado watch” is “late spring and summer.”
3. A tornado warning means there either is an actual tornado that someone trained has seen with their eyes, or they’ve seen one on radar. The tornado may or may not be on the ground. It may or may not be anywhere near you – just in your same county. Depending on the size and shape of your county, you may or may not be in any actual danger. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, however.
4. You might think that the distinction above about trained storm spotters is silly. It’s not. For fun, tune into AM 1040 during/after a storm some time when they open the lines up to callers to report in local weather conditions. You’ll learn quickly why you really only take the word of trained storm spotters seriously.
5. Tornado sirens are for the SOLE purpose of warning people who are outside to hustle inside and turn on the radio or TV. You’re not supposed to be able to hear them from indoors, and you’re not supposed to rely on them as your only source of information.
6. Your weather radio is a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s good to know if there’s a tornado bearing down on your house at 2 am. However, you likely don’t care much if there’s a flood watch for your county at 2 am. Your weather radio will alert you regardless. You should have one. They’re inexpensive, widely available, and might save your life.
7. Find a safe place in your basement where you will go during a tornado warning. Preferably well under ground, no or few windows, sturdy structure. Clear it of things that could become airborne menaces during high wind, and make yourself a little safe cave. In your cave, keep a cordless radio with fresh batteries, some food and water, a pair of shoes for everyone in the family, a change of clothes for the whole family, baby items like diapers if you have a baby, a baby carrier even if you no longer have a baby, and whatever else you think you might need. Our tornado area has a Rubbermaid with medical and first aid supplies, some basic tools like a hammer and axe, and other things that I think we’d need in the event our house collapsed around us. Bike helmets are not a bad idea to keep your noggin safe. 🙂
8. Have a plan. Practice your plan. Have a plan for what you’ll do if you’re home and there’s a tornado warning. Practice it with your kids. Drill it with your kids. In the middle of some activity, mimic a tornado warning (beeeep beeeeep beeeep) and have them do what they’re supposed to do. (In our house, the kids practice listening to the weather radio and are old enough to know that if it says tornado warning, they should go to the basement FIRST and text or call me SECOND if I’m not home. If they hear the weather radio alert but miss the talking part, so they’re not sure what the alert was for, basement. If they hear sirens, basement immediately. If they’re outside, come in and basement. If they’re at a friend’s house, basement. Basement, basement, basement. I’d rather have them in the basement and not need to be there than hesitating and die in a tornado.) Have a plan for how you’ll contact your family members if you/they are not home and there is a tornado. It’s a good idea to establish a central point of contact away from your immediate area – a family member in another state for example. If a tornado were to strike, local circuits would quickly be overwhelmed, but it would be easier to reach someone outside the area. (If my husband and I are unable to reach other during any local disaster, we’d first try reaching each other through a friend of mine who lives about 40 minutes away, and our secondary contact is my sister in Omaha. Now that my oldest has his own cell phone, these numbers are in his phone, as well as a note with instructions on what to do because I’m not counting on him remembering in the heat of the moment.)
Here’s more: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes/during.asp