Prepare for Oklahoma’s upcoming severe weather season

  • Published
  • By Clayton Cummins

While tornadoes can occur anytime during the year, the months of April through June are considered severe weather season in the state of Oklahoma according to the Storm Prediction Center. Although tornadoes may be the biggest weather threat, there are still other dangers associated with thunderstorms—even those that aren’t severe.

Severe weather can be deadly if proper precautions are not taken ahead of time for the active Spring and Summer season. Now is a great time to review general thunderstorm safety, such as what to do when storms approach. The bottom line? Head inside when thunderstorms are nearby.

Lightning can pose a danger even if a thunderstorm is not overhead. The safest thing to do when you hear thunder is immediately pause outdoor activities and move inside. If an open building is not available, waiting out the storm in a vehicle with the doors closed can offer some protection. If stuck outdoors with no other option, avoid open fields or the top of hills and ridgelines. Move away from isolated trees or tall objects, and keep away from water or metal, which conduct electricity and can injure you if struck. Always wait 30 minutes after the last observed lightning strike or rumble of thunder to resume outdoor activities.

During and after storms, heavy rainfall can cause flash flooding. Stay out of flood waters—even in a car! It takes only about a foot of water to float a car, and much less to knock you off your feet. Assessing the depth and speed of flood waters is very difficult, and trying to cross a flooded roadway is not worth the potential risk. As the National Weather Service says: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.

Hail, while rarer than the others, can be just as dangerous in the right circumstances. While smaller hail may cause some property damage, larger hail can smash windows and cause serious injury. Avoid driving through heavy thunderstorms whenever possible. If hail is falling, shelter inside away from windows and skylights.

Before severe weather season, it is important to review your emergency plans. Where will you shelter if a tornado occurs while either at work or home?

The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basement. If you don’t have a basement, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet. Avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects on the floor directly above you. Heavy objects, such as refrigerators or pianos, could fall though the floor if the tornado strikes your house. For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head with anything available—even your hands.

While at work, follow your tornado procedures and head to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. If you find yourself in an unfamiliar location and can’t find a designated shelter, follow the advice above and move to an interior room on the lowest floor of the building. Tinker AFB’s tornado siren is accompanied with words via the giant voice system. If you hear words and a siren, a tornado is expected to impact the base and/or the surrounding 5-mile radius. The sirens activated by surrounding municipalities do not have a voice with them.

It’s important to know the difference between a tornado watch and tornado warning. A tornado watch is issued with conditions are favorable for the formation of tornadoes. When a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been indicated on doppler radar or observed by trained weather spotters. The same guidelines apply for Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Severe Thunderstorm Warnings.

Most importantly on days when severe weather is expected, have multiple ways of receiving alerts. You may not be able to hear tornado sirens indoors, so monitor official notification channels or local media if severe weather is expected.