As we are in an unusually warm winter I figured I would do my yearly public service announcement on what to do during tornado season.
1. BE PREPARED - This sounds logical doesn't it but you would be surprised at the number of people who have not thought about what they would do if there was a tornado nearby. People, the time to figure it out is not in the minute before it hits. Know where to go...basement/below ground is best. Interior room with no windows is next best. Do not go outside to watch the tornado. Do not go hide under a highway underpass. If outside get in a ditch.
2. HAVE A WEATHER RADIO - These are very inexpensive and will alert you based on how you program it. Mine I have to only go off during tornado warnings in my county. Working with weather people I sort of know when we have watches so I don't worry about that part. But if you are in a tornado watch area, be alert. If it is night, turn the radio on when you go to bed. It will wake you up if a tornado warning is issued and give you time to react.
3. TAKE PRECAUTIONS WHEN NEEDED - I know people get used to warnings and don't heed them. The National Weather Service has done research on why people don't listen to them and how to word them better. I would say that the local tv stations are very good at telling people where a tornado is on the ground. The maps show you roads so you can see how far it is. I have fallen into that category of not necessarily reacting when the sirens go off but I'm going to take my own advice and do just that. We don't have a tornado shelter but I know where to go if things get bad.
4. DON'T TAKE PETS TO PUBLIC TORNADO SHELTERS - Listen I love my dog just like anybody else but don't take a pet to a public shelter. That pet is taking up space that could be a human. Last year we had so many people crammed into the shelter at work (a perk working here) and so many brought pets that people couldn't get into the shelter. They were putting them in bathrooms and other places. Just think that saving your cat or dog could mean that you are sacrificing someone's elderly mother who is in a wheelchair.
And now for how you can help research on weather get better so you are better informed. There are two projects that you can participate in from your own home. The first is about hail. This project will help radars get better in predicting hail size. You can read about the HASDEX project here. The second is the W-PING project. This measures winter precipitation (of course we haven't had much of that around here). But I know there are people getting snowfall right now and you can let us know about it.
Both of these projects will help future weather prediction. They also employ researchers, graduate students and undergraduate students so its helping the economy too!