Severe spring weather consists of lightning, tornadoes and flooding, and whether on-base or off-base, service members should remember safety guidelines when storm clouds approach.
First, spring weather can be unpredictable. Thunderstorms are the most severe types of spring weather and can produce lightning, tornadoes and flooding. According to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the commonwealth averages 35 to 45 thunderstorms a year. Thunderstorms can take place any day of the year and at any time of the day but are most common in the late afternoon and evening during the late spring and summer months.
A thunderstorm’s most dangerous component is lightning, which kills more than 60 people and injures more than 400 people a year in the United States. Service members are urged to keep eyes toward the skies when severe weather is predicted and to continuously monitor weather resources. Weather mobile apps like Accu Weather, Dark Sky and NOAA are free and can easily downloaded onto mobile devices.
Families should prepare for severe spring weather by assembling much-needed supplies and information in case a storm threatens their neighborhood.
Some items to include are:
• A battery-operated flashlight, a battery-operated NOAA weather radio and extra batteries for both
• An emergency evacuation or shelter plan, including a map of your home and, for every type of severe weather emergency, routes to safety from each room
• Extra cash (if electrical power is knocked out, ATMs will not be available)
• Full tanks of gasoline in family vehicles
• A list of important personal information, including telephone numbers of neighbors of family and friends, insurance and property information, telephone numbers of utility companies and medical information
• First aid kit
• A three- to five-day supply of bottled water and nonperishable food
• Personal hygiene items
• Blankets or sleeping bags
• Assemble emergency kits for automobiles
If away from shelter and severe weather approaches, it is important to get inside and stay inside. Officials suggest stay indoors, in a picnic shelter or a sturdy vehicle and wait until at least 30 minutes after the storm to resume outdoor activities. Authorities suggest utilizing a mobile phone only as necessary or in emergency situations.
Tornadoes can strike anywhere in the United States and during any month or any time of day. Virginia has seen as few as one tornado in a year (1982) to as many as 84 tornadoes in 2004. There is certain language the National Weather Service uses to determine thunderstorm strength and the outbreak of tornadoes. A severe thunderstorm or tornado watch means that the conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms or tornadoes. A severe thunderstorm warning means conditions are occurring now or will be approaching a certain area. Warnings are issued for individual counties and include the severe thunderstorm’s location, direction and speed. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted by local authorities, a civil defense spotter or by weather radar. Those in the path of the tornado should seek shelter immediately.
On Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, lightning detection systems alerting base residents, staff and visitors of approaching storms and lightning were put into place the past few years. The lightning detection system on Fort Myer is currently operating from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. On holidays, the joint base will follow the weekend schedule. When lightning is within 10 miles of Fort Myer, the horn will sound for about three-to-five seconds. In 15 minutes if the area is clear of lightning, those on base will hear three sharp blasts of the horn. If lightning is still in the area, individuals will not hear the all clear sound for another 15 minutes.
To keep updated on severe weather, residents and staff are encouraged to monitor television and radio stations or go online to https://forecast.weather.gov/zipcity.php?inputstring=Washington,DC.
Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.