Spring has arrived and with it the potential for severe weather. Over the last several years, April showers have actually manifested as severe storms that smash the May flowers.
For those of us living in Missouri that means severe weather season. Thunderstorms can form at any time during the year. The winter in the St. Louis Metropolitan area has seen more snow than in years past, with some severe storms. On Friday, April 22, we saw severe thunderstorms accompanied by hail, lightning, high winds, torrential rains, tornadoes and some flash flooding.
In Wentzville, the tornado sirens are tested on the first Monday of every month at 9 a.m. This is a perfect time for families and business’s to practice their disaster plans. The drills only take 15 minutes and can be incorporated with a safety meeting.
Storms can strike with little or no warning and can be disastrous for those without a plan. This is why the firefighters and staff of the want citizens to plan for their safety.
The firefighters want every family to put together and practice a “Disaster Plan” for their homes and businesses. Having a disaster plan for severe weather will better prepare you and your family for any disaster, big or small. Plans should include where family members go if they are at home, school, work, outdoors or in a car when a flood, severe thunderstorm, or tornado warning is issued.
There are numerous websites and articles on disaster planning and severe weather. The State of Missouri’s Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) is an excellent source for information. The website has information on the many topics including the “2009 Severe Weather Campaign,” Flash Flooding, Earthquakes, Disaster Kits, Tornado/Severe Weather Safety Drills and more.
Some examples of items to have in a simple “Disaster Kit” are:
- Battery operated radio and weather radio, flashlight and extra batteries
- Drinking water — 3 gallons per person plus additional water for sanitation
- A good first aid kit, make sure the family's medical needs are addressed by having a list of each member's medicines in case of an emergency.
- Food – have a minimum three-day supply of non-perishable food. Examples include dry cereal, canned fruits and juices, energy snacks, ready-to-eat soups and canned meats.
- Toilet paper, disinfectants, household chlorine bleach, garbage bags, personal hygiene supplies, soap and paper towels, extra clothing and bedding.
- Families with babies or young children – be sure to have extra formula, bottles, powdered milk, diapers and medication.
- Family pets will need food, leashes/harnesses and current I.D. tags
- Keep copies of important family documents and insurance papers in a safe place like a fire/water proof lock box.
After the storms have passed and the weather settles, residents need to be aware of the dangers that lurk hidden in the debris. These can include downed electrical power lines (possibly energized), nails or other sharp debris. Other dangers during severe weather include lightning and flash flooding.
According to the National Weather Service, there are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes each year. While some people are struck by lightning directly, others are struck as the current moves in and along the ground from a close strike.
Remember if you hear thunder, you are within striking distance of lightning and should go to a safe building immediately. Like lightning, flooding is often associated with severe weather. It can either occur in the form of flash flooding from sudden torrential rain or run-off flooding in low lying areas with poor drainage. Both of these can be deadly. Flash flooding occurs over a short period of time, usually only several hours or less. During severe weather and heavy rains, people living in low areas prone to flooding should move to higher ground. Never drive in to areas or on flooded roads, as two feet of water can float most vehicles.
For more information about how to locally prepare for your family’s safety during severe weather, please contact the Wentzville Fire Protection District. The National Weather Service and the Weather Channel are also good sources for general information on all types of weather.
The Wentzville Fire District covers 88 square miles of western St. Charles County and includes the cities of Wentzville, Foristell, Flint Hill, and Josephville; as well as large portions of Lake Saint Louis, Dardenne Prairie and O’Fallon.