By Mariel Ruiz & Max Crawford
MIDLAND - Severe weather season is underway and we have a few reminders for severe weather and how to stay safe this season. A couple of words that we often hear this time of year are watches and warnings, but do you really know the difference?
When a watch is issued, it means that severe weather will likely occur. This is usually issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) a few hours before an event. At this time, storms are either about to develop or they already have. A warning, however, is issued when storms become dangerous. At this time, take action immediately.
There a few different kinds of warnings--flash flood, thunderstorm and tornado.
A flash flood warning is when thunderstorms are producing a large amount of rain in a small amount of time. In other words, the warned area is likely to flood quickly. A thunderstorm warning is when a storm is producing hail of an inch or larger, winds above 60 mph and locally heavy rainfall. Finally, there is a tornado warning, which is a thunderstorm that shows signs of rotation and can produce a tornado at any moment. If this happens, seek shelter immediately.
For those bad weather days, there are a few things that should be kept handy. A flashlight with extra batteries, blankets, non-perishable foods and water along with a first aid kit are just a few examples. Also, have a bad weather drill set in place with your family, because preparation is key.
You should always have a designated safe area.
"Rooms that are internal--no windows, it's away from doors to the outside. That is the safest type of room for weather safety," Mark Strobin, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with NWS, said.
The key is to have as many walls between you and the storms as possible. In Texas, this is often a central bathroom or large closet. It is best to see if your apartment complex has a safe room for these situations or make friends with your downstairs neighbor, since being on the first floor of a building is ideal. If you're in a mobile home, regularly listen to weather reports for possible severe weather days and be ready to move to a sturdier structure.
Sometimes severe weather is near and you are not close to home. In this situation, there are a few things to do. If you are already driving away from the storm, keep driving and do not stop under bridges and overpasses. Winds under bridges tend to be much stronger than the surrounding areas. If you are already caught in the storm, abandon vehicles and mobile homes immediately and try to find a low-lying area.
Last, but not least, being accurately informed is a great way to stay safe. Sources like your local TV meteorologist and The National Weather Service are your best bet. We recommend having an AM/FM radio, but ideally an NOAA Weather Radio. Another source is our NewsWest9 App. It accurately displays watches and warnings over radar, so there is no confusion this severe weather season.