Spring brings warm air, but it also can spawn dangerous storms

Spring brings warm air, but it also can spawn dangerous storms

February 20th, 2013 by Lindsay Burkholder in Local Regional News

Lightning strikes south of Chattanooga, Tenn., on March 2, 2012.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

BE PREPARED

Generally, families should have supplies on hand for three days, including:

• Water: 1 gallon per person, per day

• Food: nonperishable items, enough for 3 days per person

• Manual can opener

• Whistle

• Personal sanitation items

• Medications in a supply kit or somewhere readily accessible

• Extra clothing and blankets

• Hand-cranked or battery-powered radio and flashlights

• Extra batteries

• Battery-powered cell phone charger

• Toys for children

FOR MORE INFO

For more information on alerts, emergency supply kits and plans, visit fema.gov, www.tnema.org/ReadyTN or call the NWS in Morristown at 423-586-6429.

Wreckage litters yards on Georgia 140 in Adairsville, Ga., after a tornado hit the area in January.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

As winter winds down and spring approaches to take its place, you're probably looking forward to flip-flops, short sleeves and sunbathing.

But watch out: spring's not just fun and games. Warm weather can be dangerous.

With rising temperatures in the South, warm air collides with cool air lingering farther north, creating ideal conditions for storms.

"Climatologically, the spring is the best time for tornadoes and severe weather to affect the mid-South," said National Weather Service meteorologist Shawn O'Neal in Morristown, Tenn.

The 22 tornadoes that touched down in Tennessee in January were a symptom of an unseasonably warm winter, O'Neal said. The twisters formed the second biggest outbreak of tornadoes in the recorded history of Middle Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service.

Areas of Northwest Georgia were affected, as well. A tornado in Bartow and Gordon counties killed two people and caused millions of dollars in damage across the region.

January's tornadoes were an especially powerful reminder of the importance of preparation.

Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said it's important to have supplies ready and a plan in place well before the threat of severe weather.

"If you wait until the storm is upon you or the water is in your yard, it's too late to be prepared," he said.

WHAT TO DO?

Hamilton County Emergency Services Director Tony Reavley suggests three important ways to be prepared: stay informed, stock supplies and make a plan.

Authorities agree residents should stay abreast of the latest weather updates by tuning in to local news channels on TV or radio. TEMA has a free smartphone application called ReadyTN that offers weather updates and road condition information, lists open shelters and gives nonemergency contact information specific to the user's location.

Reavley suggested keeping an emergency supply kit somewhere out of the way but easily accessible, and stocking enough supplies to last three days.

People also should designate family meeting places in case members get separated in an emergency, choosing somewhere familiar and easy to get to. Include in the plan emergency contacts, routes and a back-up location. And, most importantly, practice your plan.

"Through the practice, you might find that it might not work exactly like it's designed," Reavley said. Practicing the plan creates muscle memory, too, something that will make following it in a crisis more natural, he said.

By being prepared, you aren't just helping yourself you're helping your community, TEMA spokesman Jeremy Heidt said.

"The more individuals are prepared to help themselves and others, the more the resources can go where they're needed first: to those who don't have the wherewithal to prepare," he said.

YOU NEVER KNOW

Forecasters say January's bad weather doesn't necessarily mean more is on the way.

"There's really no way to tell," said Mark Rose, a Weather Service meteorologist in Nashville. "We have had a busy severe weather season already, but that's not necessarily a predictor of more severe weather. It doesn't mean that we're going to have a necessarily bad spring."

Spring, though, has a habit of cooking up bad weather.

"Severe weather is our No. 1 hazard here in the state of Tennessee," Flener said. "That includes floods, tornadoes, lightning and [other things]. They claim a lot of lives, they injure a lot of people and they cause a lot of damage."