I love this time of year. The world comes out of its hibernation and comes back to life after a long cold winter. Looking back at this year, this wasn't the coldest year but it may be one of the longest consistent cold winters in recorded history. Of course, I wasn't alive for most of that so I can't attest to a bitter cold winter 50 years ago, so lets just say it was the coldest in my recent memory.
Of course, with Spring comes storms, especially here in the Great Plains. Most of us who have lived here for many years know what's to come and prepare for anything. There are some though who have just moved into the area who may not understand fully how the season works in these parts.
Tornadoes aren't something that occur everyday. In fact, most years you won't be within 50 miles of one. But anyone who lives in Tornado Alley could be affected by one at anytime. This means everyone should have a plan on how to react to severe weather, not only for themselves, but for their families as well. If you're at work, know where to go. If you have a family, they should know what to do when the time comes. This means knowing where to go for shelter, when to take shelter and the difference between watches and warnings so you aren't spending your entire spring in the hidey-hole.
Watches are released when a general area has the possibility of severe weather. There are several types of watches. Severe, Tornado, Fire, High Winds, etc. A tornado watch is something to definitely pay attention to, but doesn't require a reaction at that point. It does mean think about your plan (which you will have in place after reading this right?). A tornado warning can be issued due to what the radar shows. In this scenario, radar is showing a rotation and there could quite possibly be a tornado on the ground. A tornado warning could also be a confirmed tornado has touched down and has been reported by spotters, chasers, or LEO. The tornado warning is where you want to implement your plan if it is in your area. These days the National Weather Service has really done a great job of issuing warnings that only cover the immediate area in an effort to reduce false alarms, but just paying attention to the weather and staying informed will help tremendously in whether you should take shelter or if it's 25 miles away with no threat to you.
The moral of the story is have a plan and be ready to implement it. I have a plan, and in the last couple of days have discussed it with my family so we know what to do when the time comes. Usually I will be out chasing the tornadoes, but the El Reno tornado last year being on a direct path to my home reminded us that it can happen to anybody. Be safe this year, and I'll be doing the same and hopefully capturing some beautiful images.
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