Spring is a time of rapid weather changes, when warm temperatures can be quickly replaced by a much cooler front or vice versa. It’s also the season when the likelihood of severe weather can greatly increase, putting people, pets and property at risk. Being prepared for the rapid onset of severe weather is vital to keeping you and your loved ones safe.
The National Weather Service reports that the highest number of severe weather deaths in 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics were available) was related to floods. A total of 126 people died that year due to flood-related injuries, which is a significant increase from the 10-year average of 91 deaths and the 30-year average of 84.
While record flooding that year may be attributed in large part to rainfall resulting from a strong El Niño weather pattern, a trio of hurricanes that did significant damage to Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in 2017 shows that it doesn’t take El Niño to result in heavy flooding.
While dry conditions are expected to take hold in much of the Brazos River basin this spring and summer, that doesn’t mean that strong weather patterns won’t bring quickly striking storms to the area, which carry the threat of flooding and high winds.
The first step in staying safe is to know what type of potential severe weather could be coming your way. Whether you rely on the Internet, television or local radio stations for weather updates, you can enhance your safety by having a weather radio with a battery backup. These radios share the latest information directly from the National Weather Service and have alarms which can swiftly alert you to dangerous weather conditions – even if they develop during the middle of the night.
The weather radios are available from many department stores, electronics stores or online. The price of stand-alone receivers can range from $20 or less to more than $100, depending on size and functions, according to the National Weather Service, which does not market or sell the devices. Many, but not all, of the radios have an alarm that alerts people to various warnings in their area, but having that feature is highly recommended. Devices with external alarm systems for the hearing impaired start at $100.
Another means of receiving information about developing weather conditions that are becoming more common is wireless emergency alerts, made available through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System. This is the same system that allows people to receive Amber Alerts (regarding missing children) on their cellphones. These warnings can be sent by local, state or federal officials, and by the National Weather Service.
These messages are received by cellphones just like a text message, but also feature a unique alert tone and vibration, which is repeated twice.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency website, ready.gov, notes that these alerts are not affected by network congestion and will not disrupt texts, calls or data use sessions that are in progress. Also, mobile users are not charged for receiving these messages, and there is no need to subscribe to them. If you are unsure about your cellphone’s ability to receive these messages, contact your cellphone service provider.
Some news stations have also begun offering weather alerts. To be included, you must sign up with those news stations to receive these alerts. For those types of alerts, message and data charges may apply.
People living in downstream areas which may be affected by releases from Brazos River Authority reservoirs at Possum Kingdom Lake, Lake Limestone and Lake Granbury can sign up to receive alerts. Because these alerts can be sent at any time, including in the middle of the night, forms must be completed allowing the B.R.A to send these alerts to you. For release forms for receiving these alerts from Possum Kingdom Lake, call 940-779-2321; for Lake Granbury, call 817-573-3212; and for Lake Limestone, call 903-529-2141.
The Department of Homeland Security isn’t just an organization that focuses on terrorism; it also offers advice on minimizing potentially harmful weather.
Among the suggestions of the DHS is to know how you will stay informed of weather developments, what your best scenario is for sheltering through a storm, having an evacuation route in mind and making sure you have a family communication plan.
Information about how to make a family emergency plan, and what to include, can be found here.
Detailed information about preparing for various types of severe weather, including tornadoes, flooding and thunderstorms, is available online.