What to Include in Your Family’s Severe Weather Safety Plan

As summer months approach, it's a good time to go over your family's severe weather safety plan. Ensure all family members know what to do when together and when you're not together.

One of the defining attributes of the warm season climate here in Minnesota is the occurrence of thunderstorms, which become more common as the days warm up and humidity increases.

When creating your family’s severe weather safety plan, it’s good to consider what makes a thunderstorm severe. According to the National Weather Service, for a thunderstorm to be considered severe, it must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Hail at least 1 inch in diameter (quarter size) OR
  • Measured wind speeds of at least 58 mph or extensive wind damage OR
  • The occurrence of a tornado.

Tornadoes have been observed in Minnesota as early as March 6th and as late as November 16th, though the period of May through August is our most active time of the year for seeing severe weather, with the peak of our severe weather season occurring in mid-June.

Of course hail, wind, and tornadoes aren’t the only hazards to be concerned about with thunderstorms, with lightning and heavy rainfall posing significant risks as well. So, let’s discuss 3 ways you and your family can stay safe during our severe weather season.

Severe Weather Safety Plan Step 1: Get Weather Alerts from Multiple Sources

The first step to being prepared for thunderstorms is to be aware thunderstorms and severe weather may be impacting you in the first place. This means you need multiple ways to receive weather alerts, especially overnight when everyone in your home is likely sleeping.

Whether it’s watching TV, an app on your phone, a weather radio, or just getting a phone call from someone you know, these are all effective ways of receiving weather alerts. Once you receive the weather alert, you are then able to move to the next step, which is taking action to protect you and your family.

Severe Weather Safety Plan Weather Alerts

Severe Weather Safety Plan Step 2: Identify Your Safe Places

Although not all thunderstorms may be considered severe by the National Weather Service, all thunderstorms produce lightning, which can be deadly.

Protecting yourself from the dangers of lightning is really quite simple, it’s to seek shelter in a building or vehicle. There is no place safe outside during a lightning storm. If you can hear thunder you are close enough to get struck by lightning, which is why we like to say “when thunder roars, go indoors!”

Severe Weather Safety Plan Lightning

Tornado/Strong Winds/Hail
Whether it’s a tornado, strong winds, or large hail, the safety actions you and your family need to take to protect yourself are the same. Head to the lowest level of the building you are in. If you don’t have a basement, then you will want to find an interior room that has no windows. No place outside, including your car, is safe in a severe thunderstorm.

The goal with your safe place is to have as many walls as you can between you and whatever may be flying around outside.

Severe Weather Safety Plan Tornado

One last hazard we need to be concerned about with thunderstorms here in the summer in Minnesota is heavy rainfall and the associated threat for flooding.

Most years, when it comes to thunderstorm hazards, flooding results in more fatalities than tornadoes, lightning, wind, or hail. The leading cause of flood fatalities is from driving across a flooded road. Simply put, never attempt to drive across a road with flowing water and don’t walk or play near fast moving water. You don’t know how deep that water may be and as you can see from the graphic, it does not take much flowing water to knock you over or float a vehicle.

Severe Weather Safety Plan Flood

Severe Weather Safety Plan Step 3: Have a Check-in Plan

Because you may not always be together as a family when severe weather hits, having a check-in plan with your family members is a good way to make sure everyone is safe. 

So, as we head toward summer, now is a good time to go over your severe weather safety plan with your family. How will you get warnings (remember, have multiple ways of getting them!)? Where is your safe place at home? How will you check in with your family to make sure everyone is okay if you’re not together when severe weather hits? Having answers to all of these questions will have you and your family prepared for the next storm.
For any of your weather and climate needs, be sure to check out: https://www.weather.gov/twincities/

Blog Author Bio: Mike Griesinger is a lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. He has been a meteorologist with the National Weather Service since 2006 and a member of the Twin Cities office since 2009. You can follow the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities on social media at twitter.com/NWSTwinCities and https://www.facebook.com/NWSTwinCities/.

Guest Blogger:
Mike Griesinger
Lead Meteorologist
National Weather Service

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