As we saw with the tornadoes and storms that hit the Great Plains this past weekend, severe weather isn't just for spring. In fact, we're entering into what’s known as the second severe storm season of the year. Yes, there really is a second storm season! To learn more about this topic and others, I sat down with Tom Bradshaw, Meteorologist in Charge, at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas for a conversation about—well, the weather.
|Tom Bradshaw, Meteorologist in Charge, NWS|
Winds & Floods“People need to plan now for upcoming storms that can be just as strong as what we see in the spring,” said Bradshaw. “Typically, we hit a second storm season around September and October. While the storms aren’t as frequent, they can have the same deadly results as we saw this year in Granbury and Moore, Oklahoma.”
Bradshaw points out that one of the biggest concerns during the fall severe storm season, in addition to wind and hail, is flooding. “We tend to see the biggest flood events happen in the fall, especially when we’re in drought seasons, which we are in now here in this area. Unfortunately, most droughts end in floods.” Stay flood safe this season by following these tips.
An Unusual PatternComing from western Oklahoma, Bradshaw is accustomed to communities being ready for big supercell thunderstorms, but here in North Texas, the past two years have been eye-opening.
“We’ve had everything from large hail, damaging winds, even 10-20 tornadoes at a time here in North Texas just in the past two years,” Bradshaw reflected. “The images of 18-wheelers flying through the air and the neighborhood in Granbury pretty much leveled—that’s the kind of weather that hits this area about once a decade so it’s been unusual.”
Because Mother Nature has a mind of her own, it’s critical that North Texans do make severe weather plans while the sky is blue. One area to talk about ahead of time is what to do if you’re kids are at school and severe weather is approaching.
Schools & Preparedness“After seeing what happened when the tornadoes hit the schools in Oklahoma, it’s clear there aren’t easy answers about what parents should do,” said Bradshaw. “But 99 out of 100 times, schools are safer than most places.”
Bradshaw encourages everyone to think through what they would do if their kids are in school before the storm approaches. “Talk to the schools ahead of time, be sure they have a tornado plan. Comfort yourself with that information because it will help you to know that the school has your kids best interests at heart and that they know what to do to keep them safe.” He goes on to say that chaos can actually be created if everyone rushes to schools to pick up their kids. “If everyone descends on the schools, suddenly there’s a massive traffic back-up with a storm coming. You don’t want to lose those precious moments to stay safe.”
If you’re kids school isn’t as prepared as you would like, point them to this reference page to help them be even better prepared before the next storm.
Driving & TornadoesOne frequently asked question we get at the Red Cross is if you should get in your car and drive somewhere if a storm is coming and you don’t have a safe shelter. Bradshaw gave great advice on the subject:
“If you don’t feel safe where you are, and you are confident you have time, get in your car and drive to a safe place.” But he also warns that you should never leave during the storm. Once a tornado warning has been issued, it’s too late to make an alternate plan. “Identify, in advance, exactly where you’re going to go. But when in doubt, stay put.”
CASA Radar InitiativeWhile we’re busy preparing as families during National Preparedness Month, the National Weather Service is doing the same as an organization with the new CASA Radar Initiative. In a nutshell, this complex radar system moves radars closer to the ground so that meteorologists can see the evolution of rotation. “We’re hoping to have about four of these new radars by the fall,” said Bradshaw. “By seeing the rotation closer up, we have better tools to warn the public.”
If you’ve got six minutes to spare and like us, have a fascination with the weather, check out this awesome video about the new CASA radars. It features some of our favorite meteorologists including Rebecca Miller, David Finfrock and Larry Mowry.
It’s Not “If,” But WhenIt was eerie to hear Bradshaw state the same thing we do every day at the Red Cross, and it’s why we talk to you so often about preparedness….it’s not a matter of “if” the Metroplex will be impacted by a storm system like the one that hit in Moore, Oklahoma, it’s just a matter of when.
“The toll that a storm system like that would take on this densely populated Metroplex is immeasurable,” said Bradshaw. “We have well over six million people in the metropolitan area. The impact of an EF-4 or EF-5 tornado would be massive.”
Before an emergency, work with your family to develop your comprehensive tornado safety plan.
Prepare NowWhether tornadoes, floods, heat waves or the unknown, we can all do our part to prepare. Take some time to create a checklist of things that you and your family should do in the event of an emergency. Things like packing a disaster supplies kit or talking about your family communication plan. If you’re getting ready for work or school in the morning and you hear that severe weather may be possible during the day, stick close to your radio, internet connection or mobile device. Follow @RedCrossDFW, @NWSFortWorth and your favorite meteorologists on Twitter for real-time information during storms. Think about what you’ll do if you’re in a mobile home, caught out on the road or separated from your family.
The American Red Cross has a wealth of information on how to prepare at www.redcross.org. You can also visit the National Weather Service to check out the daily weather at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/fwd.
To follow the American Red Cross's response to the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa this weekend, follow @neiaredcross and @GreaterIA_ARC on Twitter.