As we enter into March, tis’ the season of severe weather.
The first week of March (March 1-5) marks “Severe Weather Awareness Week”. Chad Omitt, Warning Coordination Meteorologist of the National Weather Service in Topeka, says we need to be ready because severe weather can really sneak up on us.
“As we transition from winter to spring, we can go quickly from a situation where we aren’t even thinking about severe weather to experiencing it, and having to think about putting a plan together and sheltering, and things like that,” Omitt says. “We’ve had severe weather events in March in the past, in fact, we’ve even had severe weather events with fatalities in February.”
He adds that one major importance of Severe Weather Awareness week is encouraging people to put together a plan.
“Looking at where you would go and what you would do in an event that a warning would be issued. And specifically, we talk about the importance of having at least a couple of ways to receive weather information and specifically, wanting information. Then also, having an awareness of where you would go, your sheltering options wherever you are at.”
Omitt says one of the best ways to get the information regarding the weather is by utilizing the local media sources.
“I would certainly encourage them to listen to commercial media,” Omitt adds. “Listen to radio and television and they’ll tell you what the weather is expected later in the day, or even over the next couple of days.”
The media may use different words such as “watch” or “warning”, which can be difficult to understand. Omitt tells KMAN more about the distinction between the two.
“In other words, the watch is sort of a ‘get ready’, ‘get set’, and the warning is the ‘go’. The warning is when we have detected something on radar or a human being has seen a rotating wall cloud, and we will issue the warning,” Omitt says.
When a warning for a tornado gets put into place, Omitt says to take shelter immediately.
“Get as low as you can and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. And get underneath something sturdy and cover up with something heavy because it’s the blowing and falling debris that’s the greatest danger in a tornado.”
Omitt says while last year Kansas experienced a historically low number of tornadoes, they don’t expect that to be the case this year. He says he predicts around 90 tornadoes this year, similar to the average over the past 30 years.
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