Severe Weather Awareness: Facts Vs. Fiction

It’s Severe Weather Awareness Week in Ohio (Pennsylvania later in the spring), the week in which we get geared up for “severe weather season” in our region. This is typically thought of as late spring and early summer, but bear in mind severe weather can happen anytime! Case in point: we had tornadoes in our area in early JANUARY this year.

I thought I would use this post to talk about some common myths and misconceptions regarding thunderstorms and severe weather. There are a lot of them! Being a well-informed and weather-savvy member of your family and community can help keep you and your friends and family safe in dangerous weather.

“YOU DON’T NEED TO BE ON TV, YOU CAN TELL US WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW IN THE CRAWL”

Like clockwork, whenever a television station interrupts programming for severe weather coverage, angry comments start piling up on Facebook, Twitter, over e-mail, etc. Some people still pick up the phone to call the station and complain. This is especially the case when programming is interrupted in “prime time”.

Here’s the thing: the policy of being on TV during active tornado warnings is standard across the country….and has been for a very long time. And will be for a very long time. Why? It’s incredibly important and the presence of television meteorologists on TV covering tornado warnings has undoubtedly saved countless lives over the years. Also: it’s basically the law. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) demands that TV stations serve the public interest. Potentially life-threatening weather certainly falls under that umbrella.

No amount of nasty (even threatening!) messages will change this. Tornado Warning? We (and every other station) will be on TV.

Severe Weather Peaks In May/June/July Here

But as mentioned above, if conditions are right, severe weather can happen any month of the year. Sometimes we see a secondary peak in late fall (late October-early November).

“I DON’T HEAR A SIREN, I MUST BE SAFE”

My rants about tornado sirens are well known to longtime viewers/followers. It’s 2019, DO NOT rely on hearing/not hearing sirens when making decisions about your safety.


“TORNADOES DON’T COME HERE BECAUSE OF BUILDINGS, THE RIVER, THE HILL, ETC”

We live in an area in which natural barriers to tornadoes do not exist. And tornadoes do not care about man-made objects. A tornado is not less likely to strike downtown Youngstown than any other location in our area. Some facts about tornadoes in Ohio and Pennsylvania:

GET AWAY FROM WINDOWS AND GET LOW

Whether it’s a tornado or powerful thunderstorm winds, you want to seek shelter in locations that provide the most protection from flying glass and debris. Don’t have a basement? An interior room with no windows is best. Have a PLAN for you and your family and practice it at least once a year.

CRACK THE WINDOWS!

Don’t do this. It does nothing but let the wind in.

WARNINGS ARE MORE SERIOUS THAN WATCHES

When any type of weather warning is issues, it means hazardous weather is occurring or imminent. Time to take action!

YOU CAN HELP!

A great way to learn and also contribute to the weather enterprise is by becoming a SKYWARN severe weather spotter. SKYWARN spotters report directly to the National Weather Service and assist the NWS in the issuance of timely severe weather warnings.

Learn more here: www.weather.gov/pbz/skywhat

Upcoming training sessions (they are free!) in our area:

STAY SAFE THIS SEASON AND REMEMBER YOU CAN GET SEVERE WEATHER ALERTS THROUGH MANY DIFFERENT OUTLETS.

To make sue Emergency Alerts are activated on your phone, go to your Push Notification settings.