Be a Force of Nature: Take the Next Step during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

When we had been in New Mexico for a couple of years, my husband went off on a Search & Rescue Training up in the mountains. The weather has an uncanny way of turning, when they go out ground pounding, so I thought nothing of it when it started to rain. Well… until the TV started to blare and I saw the red warning banner rolling across the screen with a tornado warning.

If we had lived in the Eastern Plains, I wouldn’t have been surprised and I grew up in Michigan where we had tornadoes pretty often, so I knew just what to do – head to the basement! Oh. Wait. We live in a ranch house on a slab. Well, OK, no es problema! I’ll go to a room with no glass. Easier said than done when your house is passive solar. So, I threw the cats into the dressing room and joined them. Unfortunately, that room has an outside wall.

So, off we went to the laundry room – until I decided that getting crushed between the laundry equipment and the water heater didn’t sound very pleasant. Eventually, we opted for my office which had none of the requisite protections but we figured (yes, I and the cats) that if we were going to go, we would go out in comfort.


In the end, the “tornado” turned out to be a wispy dust devil in comparison to what I had grown up with but it did teach me something. Things happen out west, too, and it’s best to have a plan BEFORE something happens. You need to adapt to your surroundings and understand what can happen and how to deal with it.

This year, I am taking the time to learn how to prepare for severe weather during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, March 2-8, 2014, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Being prepared to act quickly could be a matter of survival. This is especially evident during the threat of severe weather. The deadliest and most destructive tornado of 2013, an EF-5 on May 20 in Moore, Oklahoma and caused more than $2 billion in property damage. Even though severe weather was anticipated days in advance, many in the impacted areas said they did not have a plan and were caught unprepared.

While spring tends to produce more tornadoes, they’re not uncommon in fall. On Nov. 17, a late season tornado outbreak that struck seven Midwestern states became the most active tornado day of 2013 with a total of 74 tornadoes.

Being prepared to act quickly could be a matter of survival. This is especially evident during the threat of severe weather. The Moore Oklahoma ESF 5 tornado is estimated to have caused about $2 billion in property damage. In November 2013 alone, at least 70 tornadoes spanned seven Midwestern states.

Severe weather could happen at any time, anywhere. Even though the Oklahoma tornado outbreak was forecasted for days in advance, and warning lead times for the tornado outbreak averaged nearly 20 minutes, there were still many people in the impacted areas that stated they were unprepared.

Here is what we can do to prepare:

Knowing your risk, taking action and being an example by sharing your knowledge and actions with your social network are just a few steps you can take to be better prepared and save your life and others.

Know Your Risk: Hurricanes, tornadoes, storms – every state in the United States experiences severe weather. Visit to get the latest on weather threats.

Take Action: Take the next step in severe weather preparedness by creating a family communications plan, putting an emergency kit together, keeping important papers and valuables in a safe place, and learning about Wireless Emergency Alerts. To learn more about taking action, participate in a local event on April 30 through America’s PrepareAthon.

Be an Example: Once you have taken action to prepare for severe weather, share your story with family and friends on Facebook or Twitter. Your preparedness story will inspire others to do the same.

Learn more at and or the Spanish- language web site Follow the National Weather Service @nws and FEMA @readygov

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