Severe Weather Awareness Week: How to keep your family safe when severe weather strikes

Severe Weather Awareness Weeks runs February 20th through the 26th.
Published: Feb. 20, 2022 at 3:24 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2022 at 6:23 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - It is almost spring, which means it is also almost storm season. Severe Weather Awareness Week starts Feb. 20 and runs through the 26. Each day, the WVLT Weather Team will highlight different types of severe weather and how you can stay safe when severe weather strikes.

Join us on the WVLT First Alert Weather app for iPhone or Android, so you can stay informed on the go and in between newscasts. We share custom videos there for you, plus you can receive messages on the latest conditions and forecast.

Sunday, February 20th: Important Role of SKYWARN Spotters

Thunderstorms, tornadoes, and lightning can cause injuries, deaths, and billions in property and crop damage. The help get information and to help warm the public, the National Weather Service (NWS) created the SKYWARN Storm Spotter Program SKYWARN is a volunteer program with around 400,000 trained severe weather spotters. These spotters help keep their local communities safe and provide accurate reports to the National Weather Service. The best part is that anyone can be a spotter and the training is free! During this two-hour class, you’ll learn the basics of thunderstorm development, how to identify severe weather features, and how to report your findings to the NWS. The link above has information on how to sign up for a class.

Monday, February 21st: Flooding And Flash Floods

Each year, there are more and more flooding-related deaths, and more than half of them are flood-related drownings from a car driving into floodwaters. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near floodwaters. People underestimate the power of water. Six inches of fast-moving water can knock over an adult, and it just takes 12 inches of rushing after to carry away most cars. It takes just two feet of rushing water to carry away SUVs and trucks. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk in floodwaters which is why we always say “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” If you do find yourself in a flood and the water levels are rising quickly, get to higher ground.

Tuesday, February 22nd: Lightning, the Underrated Killer

Lightning strikes the United States 25 million times a year. While most lightning occurs in the summer, you can be struck at any time of the year. Lightning kills at least 20 people a year with hundreds more severely injured. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm which is why we say “when thunder roars, go indoors.” If for some reason you find yourself outside and cannot get indoors, stay away from tall trees or other tall objects, avoid open fields, stay away from water and metal. Water and metal do not attract lightning but they are conductors of electricity. This is why you should never swim during a storm. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

Wednesday, February 23rd: Tornado Safety and Preparedness

The statewide tornado drill and a NOAA Weather Radio test will be conducted at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Tornadoes can occur any time of day or night and at any time of the year. Also, tornadoes have been reported in all 50 states including areas in East Tennessee. When a Tornado Watch is issued, that means tornadoes are possible within the next few hours. This is the time to be prepared and have a plan. A Tornado Warning means take covered. A tornado has now been sighted or indicated by radar. You should move to an interior room or on the lowest floor of your house away from windows. If you are in a mobile home, a car, or outside, move to the closest shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.

Thursday, February 24th: Severe Thunderstorms

Severe thunderstorms can do just as much damage as a weak tornado. Winds could gust more than 58 miles per hour and hail can damage property. When a Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued, you should be prepared and have a plan in place. A lot like a Tornado Watch, there is a chance a severe thunderstorm couple pop up in your area within the next few hours. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means that a severe thunderstorm is taking place NOW and you need to take shelter. If the winds are rotating, that is when a Tornado Warning is issued, but if they are just strong gusts or straight-line winds, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued. Both can do a lot of damage so it is important to take shelter as you do for a Tornado Warning when a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued. Also during a Tornado or Severe Thunderstorm Warning, it is important to have many forms of notifications. A NOAA weather radio, the WVLT First Alert Weather App, and WVLT News are the best ways to stay informed during any type of severe weather.

Friday, February 25th: NOAA Weather Radio and the Emergency Alert System

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio states broadcasting continuous weather information from the NWS. This is the best way to get any watches, warnings, and advisories straight to you. The link above provides a lot of information on how to program your weather radio and where to get one. You can typically find NOAA Weather Radios on Amazon, Ace Hardware, Academy Sports, etc. If you are in a Tornado Warning or in a Flash Flood Emergency, you will also get an alert straight to your phone, on the TV, or on the radio through the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The EAS is also activated for non-weather emergency messages such as AMBER alerts. It is still best to have multiple ways of getting information when severe weather is on the way.

Saturday, February 26th: The Importance of Social Media

Getting reports from you is super helpful in severe weather situations. When we are on-air telling you about a storm, we can only see a radar image. We have no idea what is actually happening outside because we cannot see it. Getting reports and pictures from the public is critical information and can help save lives. Also by sharing images and reports, we can tell the NWS where to go the next day to survey the damage. You can join our WVLT Weather Vols Facebook Page or submit photos through the WVLT First Alert Weather App.

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