Severe weather safety tips from the pros

Severe weather safety expert Martin Lisius offers his insight gathered from more than 30 years of storm chasing. 

Tornadoes

Tornadoes can produce winds greater than 300 mph, and can travel across the ground at up to 60 mph. They can develop any time of day, any month of the year, but are most common in the afternoon and evening, and in the spring and fall. Tornadoes are most common across the Great Plains and Gulf States regions of the US. More tornadoes occur in the United States than any other country in the world, and more tornadoes occur in Texas than any other state.

Below-ground shelters, and reinforced "safe rooms" provide the best protection against tornadic winds. 

Other options include:

In homes or small buildings, go to the northeast corner of a basement. If a basement is not available, go to the smallest, most-interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Cover yourself to protect your body from flying debris.

In schools, hospitals, factories or shopping centers, go to the smallest, most-interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head.

In high rise buildings, go to the smallest, most-interior rooms or hallways. Stay away from exterior walls and windows. 

In cars or mobile homes, abandon them immediately!! Cars and mobile homes provide no protection from tornadic winds. If you are in either of those locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter. Do not attempt to seek shelter beneath an overpass or bridge. They provide little or no shelter and have proved to be deadly options. 

If caught in the open, lie flat in a culvert, ditch or depression and cover your head.

Lightning

Lightning is a threat anywhere thunderstorms occur. If you hear thunder. It is time to take shelter. 

When inside: 

  • Avoid using the telephone, or other electrical appliances.
  • Do not take a bath or shower, or stand near plumbing.

If caught outdoors:

  • Seek shelters in a sturdy building. A hard-top automobile can also offer protection.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get out of the water and move to safe shelter on land.
  • If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.
  • If you feel your hair standing on end, squat with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat!
  • Avoid isolated trees or other tall objects tall objects, water, fences, convertible cars, tractors and motorcycles. 

Flash Floods

Flash Floods develop quickly. They can occur anywhere, along rivers of creeks, in low water crossings or in a dry stream bed. They can occur during any month and at any time during the day. Inf fact, flash floods often occur at night when it is difficult to find an escape route. Flash floods can be deceptive. Flood waters are likely deeper and moving faster than you think. 

When driving:

  • Avoid low water crossings.
  • Use alternate routes to avoid flood prone areas.
  • Leave your vehicle immediately if it stalls in flood waters.
  • Move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
  • Most cars and light trucks will begin to float in as little as 12 inches of water.
  • Act quickly, rising waters make vehicle doors difficult to open. 

If you are outside:

  • Everyone especially children, should stay away from flooded creeks, streams or drainage ditches. 
  • Swiftly flowing water can quickly sweep away even the strongest swimmers.
  • Soggy banks can collapse, dumping you into flood waters. 

About Martin Lisius: Martin is a veteran storm chaser and president of Tempest Tours Storm Chasing Expeditions. He authored  "The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide" to share his insight on dangerous weather with others.