For Release March 13, 2001

Severe Weather Awareness Week

AGRI-VIEWS
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

This is Kansas Severe Weather Awareness Week. I donít feel that we really take the time to appreciate what an impact weather has on our lives on a daily basis. Not only does it affect our activities, it also affects our moods and outlook every single day. So letís spend this week learning a little more about the weather and specifically the severe weather we can face for the next six months. Letís also learn how to stay as safe as possible during those periods of severe weather.

The National Weather service office in Topeka has a wonderful World Wide Web site at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/top/. They also have a very good severe weather awareness site at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/2001/swaw2001.htm. A lot of information, facts and figures can be found there.

We canít deny the fact that we live in tornado alley. Who hasnít seen the Wizard of Oz afterall? Over the last fifty years, Kansas has averaged about fifty tornadoes a year. Last year we were a little above that at 58 or 59. But we really feel that 2000 was a fairly calm year for severe weather. 2001 is shaping up to be something a little more active. Weíve already seen evidence of that in the southern states.

Severe thunderstorms can happen any month of the year. Already weíve had thunderstorms in February and March. Several weather features come along with thunderstorms that can cause damage. They may occasionally contain hail. We all remember the severe hail storm of 1995. Even more rarely, those severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes. Since 1950 Geary county has experienced twelve confirmed tornadoes. While these tornadoes produced no fatalities and only three injuries, they did considerable property damage.

But every thunderstorm contains lightning. Lightning is the real threat. Lightning is the one consistent danger from thunderstorm to thunderstorm. Since 1950 there have been 208 fatalities in Kansas from tornadoes. Five specific tornado events account for about ĺ of those deaths. Since 1959 (ten fewer years) there have been 190 injuries and 61 deaths from lightning. Moral of this story is, respect tornadoes but really respect lightning!

What can you do to protect yourself from severe storms? The first step is awareness. Listen to local radio and television stations and keep an eye to the sky. Consider buying a weather radio. These provide 24 hour weather reports and when severe weather threatens, many weather radios will sound an alarm. They have a new transmitter south of Abilene, so local coverage, with the NOAA weather radio signal, has been much improved.

Next, discuss with your family severe storm protection. Explain to them that a weather watch covers a broad area and indicates that severe weather could occur. A weather warning will cover a very specific area and will indicate that severe weather is occurring. Make sure you and your family know what to do and where to go in case of a severe thunderstorm warning or a tornado warning. If you donít know, then contact the local Emergency Preparedness Office, Red Cross, National Weather Service or myself and weíll be more than happy to provide you with the necessary information.

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will occur in Kansas. You donít need to fear these storms, just learn to respect them and understand what they can do and how you can protect yourself. Severe storm awareness is everyoneís job!

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