Severe Storms - A Guide to Survival

When Seconds CountSevere storms strike quickly. Thunderstorms can produce heavy rain, strong winds, lightning, hail and tornadoes. Respond promptly to these threats posed by a storm in your area.

The National Weather Service, in cooperation with the broadcast media and your local spotter system, will provide you with the warnings you need to quickly respond. If you listen to the media, you'll know when a storm is approaching your area and if you need to take protective action.

There are six National Weather Service Offices that monitor the State of Nebraska. Links to those National Weather Service offices are:

  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Hastings, Nebraska
  • Goodland, Kansas
  • North Platte, Nebraska
  • Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • National Weather Service offices and centers by region for entire United States
  • RadioNOAA Weather Radios are the best warning system for all kinds of emergencies, including severe storms. These inexpensive devices are recommended as the primary warning system for everyone.

    WATCH OR WARNING: A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means conditions are right for the development of storms. Stay tuned to the media for further advisories. Don't travel.

    A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a storm is probable in the warned area and residents there should be prepared to take cover.

    Don't wait until an emergency siren sounds to start looking for flashlights and other things. Make sure the entire family knows where to go at home, at work, in school, at the mall or anywhere they might be when the storms strike. Know where you will take shelter. PLAN AHEAD.

    Flash Flooding

    Flooding in a town reveals floating cars.Floods kill more people on average than tornadoes and lightning combine. Most flood deaths are due to flash floods.

    Flash floods are often the result of heavy rains associated with severe thunderstorms. You will not always have a warning that these deadly, sudden floods are coming.

    When a flash flood WATCH is issued, be alert and be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice.

    When a flash flood WARNING is issued, or the moment you realize a flash flood is imminent, act quickly to save yourself. You may only have SECONDS.

    Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are automobile related. In your auto, look out for flooding at highway dips, bridges or low areas.

    DO NOT drive through flowing water. A mere two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.

    Lightning

    Lighting over a sunset.Lightning kills between 75 and 100 people nationwide annually.

    During thunderstorms, stay inside. If you are outdoors, an automobile is a safe place to be.

    Indoors, keep away from doors, windows, stoves, sinks, metal pipes or other conductors. Don't use the telephone. Disconnect electrical appliances such as TVs and radios.

    Outdoors, minimize your height but don't lie flat. Do not take shelter under a tree. Stay away from wire fences or other metallic conductors. Avoid standing in small sheds in open areas.

     

    Tornados

    Large tornado.The most destructive and devastating product of a thunderstorm, these violent twisters, are characterized by a funnel-shaped cloud, which forms at the bottom of a wall cloud.

    Tornadoes are more often than not, accompanied by lightning, heavy rain and hail. In an average year, the United States reports 800 tornadoes resulting in 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries.

    While they can occur all year, tornadoes are most common in Nebraska during spring and early summer, where they develop along dry lines. Dry lines separate very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Most twisters in the state occur in the afternoon or early evening as these dry lines move east.

    Basement after a tornado.The safest place to be when a tornado strikes is in a basement under something sturdy like a workbench.

    A major cause of injury and death is flying debris, (note the basement at the right) so even in the basement, have a mattress or heavy blanket handy to protect you from debris.

    If your house or apartment doesn't have a basement, seek shelter in a small room (preferably without windows) in the middle of the house. A closet or a bathroom (lie in the bathtub) are recommended. The more walls between you and the approaching storm, the better.

    Mobile home and a tornado in the background.If you live in a mobile home, even those with tie downs, seek more secure shelter. Have a prearranged location selected. Go to a friend's or a relative's house or a nearby building with a basement or tornado shelter.

    As a last resort, go outside and get in a culvert or other low area, but be alert to rising water from the heavy rains.

     

    Upside-down car and tornado destruction.If you are in an automobile, get out of your vehicle and seek shelter in a safe structure or lie down in a low area with your hands covering the back of your head and neck.

    It is unwise to try and outrun a tornado, however, you may be able to head at a right angle to the storm if you are sure of the direction in which the twister is heading. Tornadoes can change directions suddenly. They can toss cars, and even large 18 wheelers, around like toys.

    Taking shelter under an overpass is also not recommended, because most underpasses offer no place to hide. They can actually act like a wind tunnel and increase the storm's fury.

    At work or school, know the emergency plans. If no specific plans exist, go to an interior hallway or small room on the building's lowest level. Avoid areas with glass and wide, free span roofs.

    When tornado watches are issued stay at home. But if you find yourself at the store or a mall and if you can't get to a basement or a designated shelter, go to the center of the lowest level of the building. Avoid windows and lie flat. Cover yourself with any handy object.

    Most towns in Nebraska sound the sirens when a tornado is sighted or when the NWS issues a tornado warning. However, many times there are no warnings. Tornadoes can develop suddenly; sometimes the sirens fail.

    The best bet is to have a NOAA weather radio with battery backup, have it programmed for your nearest NWS office and programmed to sound alerts for your county. Be aware of changing weather conditions, HAVE A PLAN and be prepared to seek shelter.

 

Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, 2433 N.W. 24th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68524-1801