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Severe Weather Safety and Survival

Severe Weather Safety Checklist

This severe weather safety checklist is designed to give you a basic idea of what to do when severe weather threatens. When severe thunderstorms are in the forecast, follow the checklist below to prepare yourself as best as possible.

What To Do When A Watch Is Issued
What To Do When A Warning Is Issued

Before Storms Develop

I heard there was a chance of severe storms today when I woke up, what should I do?

  • Check the Hazardous Weather Outlook.

    The Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWO) will provide the initial "heads up" for the potential of severe weather. It is issued at least once a day (between 4 and 6 AM), and updated as needed. A brief discussion will provide the probability of severe weather occurring, the primary threats associated with the severe weather, and if possible, the locations and times when severe weather is most likely.
  • Visit the NWS Wilmington, OH Website.

    Our homepage provides quick access to the latest forecast for your location (updated at least every 3 hours), visual and text displays of watches and warnings, radar images, and forecast discussions from our meteorologists.
  • "Like" us on Facebook.

    While we don't post our warnings to our Facebook site, we do often post information about upcoming and occurring weather events. We also highlight other ways to get prepared before the storm and announce Skywarn Storm Spotter training sessions. If you are able to safely observe or take photos of severe weather or damage, you are welcome to post your storm reports on our page. Keep in mind that our posts are made as time permits and may be limited during active weather.
  • Check Your Kit:

    Check your severe weather safety kit and NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio. You should make sure that everything has fresh batteries that work. You should check your radio, flashlight, etc. because they may become necessary later in the day. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged in case you lose power. If you don't have a severe weather safety kit, here are some links to suggestions from FEMA and the Red Cross to get you started. 
  • Review Your Safety Plan:

    Review your severe weather safety plan. Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do in certain situations. Know where everyone will be during the day and make it clear what to do if severe weather impacts your location. Know where to seek shelter beforehand! If you don't have a tornado safety plan, review some safety tips and suggestions. Here is a link to a Red Cross family disaster plan.
  • Find A Way To Monitor Weather Information:

    Whether it be via a television, AM/FM radio, the Internet, mobile device, NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, etc., continue to monitor weather information during the day for any changes in the situation. Know how you will receive weather information ahead of time. Have multiple sources of weather information. Power outages, communications failures, and other issues could prevent you from receiving information from some sources, so have more than one!

    When severe weather is expected, make a habit of checking the weather frequently. Conditions can change rapidly. The latest information from the National Weather Service in Wilmington, OH will be provided on our website and NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio.

If you follow the steps above, you should have a good idea of when and where severe weather may strike, where you and your friends and family will be during that time, and know exactly what to do if severe weather should occur. Also, your severe weather safety kit should be complete and ready.

When A Watch Is Issued

Watches may be issued hours before a storm. Watches also typically cover a large geographic area. The sky may be sunny when you first hear a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch. Remember, a watch just means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes to develop, in and close to the watch area. However, they serve as a signal that severe weather is becoming more likely, and warrant a heightened level of awareness.

  • Check Weather Information Again:

    Don't be caught off guard! While watches may be issued before storms form, thunderstorms may be developing when the watch is posted, or thunderstorms may be ongoing and moving into the area. By checking the weather information again, you will be aware of what is going on around you.
  • Make Sure Your NOAA Weather Radio is Turned ON:

    If your NOAA All-Hazards Radio was not already turned on, you should definitely make sure that it's operating, the alert function is set to "on," and the batteries are still working when a watch is issued. The radio will alert you if a warning is issued, so it is vital to have it on and working correctly.
  • Consider Turning on a TV or AM/FM Radio:

    If you don't own a NOAA All-Hazards Radio, you may want to consider turning on a television to a local station, or turning on an AM/FM radio. A local television station is probably the best means of staying updated on the situation other than a NOAA All-Hazards Radio, or the NWS Wilmington, OH website.
  • Consider Altering Your Plans:

    During severe weather outbreaks, conditions can change rapidly. You may have little time to react, or find yourself in a compromised position with few safe options.

    If living in a mobile home, consider evacuating to a more substantial shelter during the time period of the watch. You may only have very limited time to find more substantial shelter once a warning is issued, so being alert and acting ahead of time is important. Even weak tornadoes and strong straight-line thunderstorm winds can severely damage or destroy mobile homes.

    Consider cancelling or delaying travel and outdoor activities. Severe weather can develop and move very quickly. You may find yourself without a way to receive critical weather information. Substantial shelter may not be available when the severe weather suddenly strikes. Avoid these risks by planning ahead and remembering that severe weather could occur at any time during the watch period.

When A Severe Thunderstorm Warning Is Issued

Do not ignore severe thunderstorm warnings! Severe thunderstorm warnings often precede tornado warnings, providing you with extra time to prepare for a dangerous storm. If there's a severe thunderstorm headed your way, you should monitor it closely, especially if a tornado watch is also in effect. In addition, straight-line winds from severe thunderstorms can be just as destructive as weak tornadoes.

  • Move Indoors and Away From Windows:

    Again, do not ignore severe thunderstorm warnings. Severe thunderstorms can produce damaging straight-line winds and large hail. It is important to move inside a sturdy structure and stay away from windows.
  • Monitor Weather Information Continuously:

    Severe thunderstorms can and do produce tornadoes. Whatever method you use to stay up-to-date on severe weather information, make sure you do so. Being aware of what's going on around you is very important.

When A Tornado Warning Is Issued

Tornado warnings contain information that lists the cities and towns in the path of a tornado. While your National Weather Service strives to provide the most detailed and accurate information possible, there may be occasions when your small town or community is in the path of a dangerous storm, but is not listed in the warning text. This also holds true for television path forecasts. You should be cautious when using detailed forecasts of time and location. Because of the way radar works and how storms behave, these times and locations could be off by several minutes and several miles. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your tornado shelter.

  • Move quickly! Don't waste valuable time by trying to see the tornado. If you wait until you can see or hear it coming, it may be too late.
  • Be sure you're dressed appropriately, and don't forget to wear sturdy shoes!
  • Take your cell phone, car keys and identification with you.
    This is EXTREMELY important. If you are outside, get inside. If you're already inside, get as far into the middle of the building as possible. Get underground if possible. If you cannot, go to the lowest floor possible. Flying and falling debris are a storm's number one killer. Use pillows, blankets, coats, helmets, etc. to cover up and protect your head and body from flying debris.
  • DO NOT seek shelter under a highway overpass. They are not safe!
  • DO NOT open doors or windows. This does not help!
  • DO NOT go outside to find the tornado, even if you think it's far away!

- Thanks to NWS Norman, OK and NWS Fort Worth, TX for providing the template for this checklist.

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National Weather Service
Wilmington Ohio Weather Forecast Office
1901 South State Route 134
Wilmington, OH 45177
Tel: (937) 383-0031
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Page last modified: May 15, 2012.
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