Storm and Tornado News

Do’s and Don’ts for Spring’s Severe Weather

As trees turn green and flowers think of blooming, our weather begins it unpredictable shift from cold to warm. This shift can bring a slew of severe weather related hazards. Depending on the current yearly weather pattern, spring can bring dry conditions or heavy rains. Dry weather encourages wildfires and can contribute to flooding once intense rains strike. Even late snowfalls and ice storms can catch many people off guard.

But as most Oklahomans know, the most severe threats during spring are tornadoes. Hail, lightning and pouring rain are seasonal occurrences in the southern plains, and tornadoes are a dangerous result of this severe weather. Don’t wait until it’s too late to create your severe weather safety plan.

Practice your safety plan with your family and keep your emergency weather kits at the ready. Batteries, flashlights and weather radios are all excellent items to have in case lightning strikes cause power outages or for other weather related emergencies. Educate your family on the do’s and don’ts of severe flooding, especially the importance of not driving through deep water. In case of dry conditions, keep a fire extinguisher and a water hose handy. It’s also time to clean out your tornado shelter and check for foundational cracks that could cause water to leak into your shelter.

While most people don’t need to use all their emergency items, it is always a safe bet to be well-prepared.  Spring weather can bring unexpected challenges and the best way to stay safe is to be organized, educated and ready for whatever mother nature throws your way.

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Safety Tips for Fall Weather Hazards

As leaves start to fall, and the temperature drops, our weather begins its unpredictable shift from hot to cold. This shift can bring a slew of extreme weather related hazards. Depending on the current yearly weather pattern, fall can suffer dry conditions or heavy rains. Dry weather encourages wildfires and can contribute to flooding once intense rains strike. Early snowfalls and ice storms have also been known to occur during the autumn months, catching many people off guard.

But as most Oklahomans know, the most severe threats during fall are tornadoes. Hail, lightning and pouring rain are seasonal occurrences in the southern plains, and tornadoes are a dangerous result of this severe weather. Don’t wait until spring to create your severe weather safety plan. Keep your tornado shelter cleaned and ready throughout the year in case of unexpected tornado outbreaks. Practice your safety plan with your family and keep your emergency weather kits at the ready.

In case of early snow or ice storms, keep a bag of salt in your garage and snow shovel close at hand.  Batteries, flashlights and weather radios are all excellent items to have incase lightning strikes cause power outages or for other weather related emergencies. Educate your family on the do’s and don’ts of severe flooding, especially the importance of not driving through deep water. In case of dry conditions, keep a fire extinguisher and a water hose handy.

While most people don’t need to use all their emergency items, it is always a safe bet to be well-prepared.  Fall weather can bring unexpected challenges and the best way to stay safe is to be organized, educated and ready for whatever mother nature throws your way.

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Pets and Storms – 3 Important Tips to Keep Your Animals Safe

by Margo Waldrop

For many people, our pets are family. We understand that their lifespans are shorter than ours, but it is still devastating when we lose a furry family member. When severe storms threaten, our first instinct is to protect ourselves and our children, and rightly so. However, there are many things we can do to make sure that our pets stay safe as well. Follow these three important tips to ensure that your beloved pets survive the storm:

  1. Animals get scared! – Thunderstorms bring a lot of noise and this tends to scare pets, especially dogs. If they are indoor dogs, they are fairly safe and will usually hide beneath a bed or take shelter in your arms. However, outdoor cats and dogs can bolt from the safety of their yard. If you know a storm is headed your way, make sure to secure your pet in your garage, or other area where they cannot escape. It is a good idea to secure your fence gate with a deadbolt lock so it will stay shut during high winds.
  2. Hail hurts. –  If hail is imminent, bring outdoor pets inside. Hail storms usually don’t last long, so be patient while it passes. Possibly give Fido a bone to chew on to keep his mind occupied from the loud noises.
  3. Tornadoes are deadly. – Tornado warnings can set off ‘panic mode’ and it’s easy to forget about our four-legged friends. If you know tornadoes are possible for your area, keep your eyes and ears open for warnings and sirens. Most people have a safety plan for their family, so make sure to include your pets in that plan. If you have a storm shelter, you can practice with Fido on calmer days. Walk your pets down into the shelter with treats as incentives. This allows them to get used to the shelter so when an actual tornado threatens, they are more likely to cooperate. If you have smaller pets, keep their crates handy so they can easily be taken into the shelter.

Unfortunately, storms are more than just a nuisance, they can be dangerous. Preparation and practice are the best ways to keep your family and your pets safe.

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Lightning Strikes – A Real and Present Danger

by Margo Waldrop

Beautiful and deadly, lightning is one of nature’s most fascinating wonders. These majestic light shows light up the sky with their intricacy but also carry lethal charges that can wipe out scores of people in one strike. Such high-voltage strikes claim between 55 to 60 lives per year, while also injuring hundreds.

Most strikes occur in open areas such as golf courses, ball parks and fields. Your best bet for safety is to get indoors as quickly as possible. NEVER hide beneath a tree or near metal objects, as these can be dangerous electrical magnets. And don’t be deceived by the distance of a thunderstorm. A storm doesn’t have to be close to present a threat. A bolt of lightning can strike people up to 10 miles away from its storm source, and in rare cases, has been known to strike up to 50 miles away.

If you are in your car during an electrical storm, stay put, the rubber tires can ground a charge and keep you from being injured. However, you should avoid touching anything metal within the car until the storm passes.

If you are in doors, do not bath or shower and avoid anything inherently metal, such as pipes.  It is also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of a lightning strike, since dry conditions can prompt fires.

While thunderstorms also bring hail, rain and tornados, keep in mind that lightning is an ever present danger. Educate your family on storm safety and include lightening protection tips in your severe weather plans.

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How are Tornadoes Rated? – The Enhanced Fujita Scale

By Margo Waldrop

Tornadoes come in all strengths and sizes, from small dusters to one mile long monsters. Their damage can be extensive and varied. In 1971 Tetsuya Theodore Fujita of the University of Chicago, invented a scale to measure tornadoes based on the extent of damage they produced. The scale measures wind forces required to destroy homes and buildings and ranged from F0 (smaller twisters) to F5 (larger twisters).

In recent years, an Enhanced Fujita Scale was devised by engineers and meteorologists to more accurately determine a tornadoes wind speed and ability for destruction. This enhanced scale now details damage for 23 specific types of buildings such as mobile homes, homes, and schools. It also includes destruction parameters for additional objects such as trees, power poles and cell towers.

Enhanced Fujita Scale Ratings:

  • EF-0: Wind speeds between 65 and 85 mph. Light structural damage including surface peel to roofs and broken tree branches.
  • EF-1: Wind speeds between 86 and 110 mph. Moderate structural damage. Stripped roofs, overturned mobile homes and cars.
  • EF-2: Wind speeds between 111 and 135 mph. Considerable structural damage. Complete loss of roofs, shifting foundations, cars and mobile homes destroyed. Uprooted or snapped trees.
  • EF-3: Wind speeds between 136 and 165 mph. Severe structural damage. Weak structures blown from foundations, large buildings severely damaged.
  • EF-4: Wind speeds between 166 and 200 mph. Devastating damage. Homes completely leveled, cars turned into missiles.
  • EF-5: Wind speeds over 200 mph. Incredible damage. Strong framed homes leveled from foundations. High rise buildings with significant structural damage. Cars thrown through air as high as 109 yards.

The purpose of the Fujita scale is to help people better prepare for tornadoes, and to enhance the strength of buildings, homes and even storm shelters. This knowledge helps to build structures that are better able to withstand the intensity of tornadoes.

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Severe Weather Terms You Need to Know

Oklahoma and severe weather seem to go hand and hand and has history has shown, it can strike at any time. Fall and Spring are especially dangerous which is why understanding severe weather terms can be crucial to your safety.

Significant Weather Advisory – This advisory is normally used for storms with penny sized hail and wind gusts near 50 mph. This is categorized as a ‘near’ severe thunderstorm. Can also be issued to indicate the possibility of severe storms.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – Where conditions are likely to develop a severe thunderstorm. A severe thunderstorm is defined as hail over 1 inch in diameter and/or winds 58 mph or higher.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning – A warning that is issued when a severe thunderstorm is imminent. Take cover immediately.

Wind Advisory – Includes sustained winds of 31 to 39 mph and/or wind gusts of 46 to 57 mph.

Severe Thunderstorm – A storm qualifies as severe when it produces winds over 58 mph, quarter size hail, or a tornado.

Flash Flood Watch – Indicates developing or current hydrologic conditions that could include flash flooding in or around the watch area.

Flash Flood Warning – Issued when flash flooding is imminent, highly likely, or in progress. If you are in the affected area, you should move to higher ground or evacuate immediately.

Tornado Watch – Issued when tornadoes are possible in or near the watch area.

Tornado Warning – Where severe rotation has been indicated by Doppler weather radar or has been sighted by spotters. Seek shelter immediately.

Tornado Emergency – This warning occurs when a violent tornado is expected to impact a heavily populated area.

Education can mean safety when it comes to severe weather. By understanding these terms, you can help keep your family safe from hazardous weather, no matter the season.

*Some terms provided by www.weather.gov

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Sooner Safe – Safe Room Rebate Program

Did you know there is a rebate program, called Sooner Safe, for installation of a storm shelter in your home?

Oklahoma has a little known, Safe Room Rebate Program called Sooner Safe. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management holds the yearly lottery for Oklahoma citizens. The lottery is a random selection process to select names for a maximum rebate of $2,000 for the installation of a safe room (aka storm shelter). Safe rooms, as outlined in the rebate program, is any above or below ground shelter that exceeds FEMA 320 guidelines. And while the selection is a random drawing, homeowners who have lost their homes during previous tornados will be listed as high priority.

There are guidelines for the rebate, and OKC Shelters builds a complete line of storm shelters to satisfy these guidelines. From underground garage shelters and concrete safe rooms to above ground steel safe rooms, we offer products and services that are taking storm safety and protection into the future. Our below ground shelters are available in four sizes with a sloped front or flat top to fit a variety of spaces.

Storm shelters have been proven to save lives. Studies show that a storm shelter can survive winds as high as 250 miles per hour (Source: FEMA Publication 320).

So, don’t wait until tornado season is here to protect your loved ones with an in-ground or above-ground storm shelter.

Follow this link for more information: https://www.ok.gov/OEM/Programs_&_Services/Sooner_Safe_Saferoom_Rebate_Program/Rules_&_Regulations.html

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Storm Shelter Installation FAQ – Your Questions Answered!

At Preferred Shelters we got a lot of questions about the actual storm shelter installation process. While you do have several options for location and type of shelter, there can be limitations.  Check out these installation FAQ:

Q. Where can my shelter be installed?

A. Shelters can be installed indoors or outdoors, with three options to choose from: in-ground, above-ground, and safe room.

Q. How long does it take to complete installation?

A. We will have your shelter installed within one day.

Q. Does OKC Shelters clean up the mess from installation?

A. Yes, we certainly do. Our team will haul off, the dirt and debris from your install, as well as sweep your garage floor. Our aim is to leave your home as we found it.

Q. How many people will the shelter hold?

A. A typical shelter accommodates 6-8 depending on size and number of adults, children, pets, etc. FEMA requires 3 sq. ft. per person. We can install shelters that hold up to 12 adults.

Q. Will the installation damage my foundation?

A. Our installers are home improvement experts and will ensure that your foundation maintains its structural integrity.

Q. Can you install an in-ground storm shelter in my post-tension foundation?

A. Unfortunately, we cannot. Post-tension foundations are intricately balanced through a cable system, and cutting into it will damage its integrity. If there is a pre-cut hole in the foundation for a storm shelter, then yes, we can install an in-ground shelter. Remember, there is always the option of an above-ground shelter or safe room.

Q. Can you install an in-ground shelter in my backyard?

A. In-ground shelters are designed to be within a sheltered space. The sliding lid is not water tight, and needs to be protected from outside elements. The unit must also be installed with an existing slab in place. If you want an outdoor storm shelter, we do install above-ground storm shelters.

If you have further questions about installing a storm shelter, please call us at (405) 702-1717 for a free consultation.

*All our shelters meet or exceed FEMA 320 Standard to withstand an F5 or greater tornados. They are in compliance with the applicable provisions of the ICC-500 Design Standard/NSSA criteria, and have been successfully tested at Texas Tech Wind Engineering Research Center.

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What Is A Microburst and Why Is It Important?

Violent and potentially deadly, microbursts give tornadoes a run for their money.  These little-known weather outbursts can be as destructive as a tornado and should be taken just as seriously. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), unyielding microbursts can cause miles of damage including uprooting trees, leveling fences, and destroying power lines and buildings.

Anatomy of  Microbursts

A microburst is an intense downdraft of air that can produce violent, straight-line winds of more than 100 mph. In extreme cases, wind speeds can reach as high as 150 mph. As a column of air shoots from the thunderstorm base and hits the ground at high speeds, it fans out resulting in powerful winds. While wind force is similar to tornadoes, it does not possess the circular motion of a tornado. Microbursts are normally less than 3 miles across, with lifespans ranging from a couple of seconds to several devastating minutes.

Weather studies have shown that microbursts typically occur in the High Plains and western U.S.  where there is a prevalence of unstable, low level, dry environments. Oklahoma is ripe territory for microbursts with our flat landscape and dry conditions.

Aviation Hazard

The forceful wind shear of a microburst can also be a danger to aircraft. As reported by the Langley Research Center, wind shear poses the greatest danger to aircraft during takeoff and landing, when the plane is close to the ground and has little time or room to maneuver. This fateful, weather phenomenon resulted in the crash of Delta Air Lines Flight 191 in Dallas, Texas on August 2, 1985. Fortunately, since the Delta crash, airplane safety standards have increased to better prepare for and withstand microburst wind shear.

So, while tornadoes get all the press, microbursts deserve their fair share of respect. High winds can be extremely destructive and precautions should always be taken during a microburst event. If a microburst is possible, take shelter immediately. As with all weather hazards, the better educated you are the safer you will be.

*For more information on aviation wind shear: https://www.faasafety.gov/files/gslac/library/documents/2011/Aug/56407/FAA%20P-8740-40%20WindShear%5Bhi-res%5D%20branded.pdf

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3 Ways to Avoid Getting Trapped in Your Storm Shelter

Worried About Getting Trapped in Your Storm Shelter? 

A general fear among homeowners is getting trapped in their underground storm shelter by heavy debris. Because of this fear, many people will not get into a storm shelter during a tornado emergency. And, while flying debris is a major cause of injury and death during a tornado, without a storm shelter, you are at severe risk of injury or death. Heavy debris can land on your under-ground storm shelter while you are inside. The question is, how do you avoid getting trapped?

  1. Hydraulic jacks – Extremely important for storm shelter owners, hydraulic jacks can free you from heavy debris. They are portable, inexpensive and capable of lifting several tons. Hydraulic jacks not only lift extremely heavy objects, but can also prop up your shelter door to enable you to safely exit. Hydraulic jacks are easy to operate and need to be stored inside of your shelter in case of a tornado emergency.
  2. Cars – Believe it or not, your own car can help protect your in-ground shelter from debris. In-ground, garage, storm shelters are designed for you to park your car on top of the shelter and still have room to enter during an emergency. During a severe storm, as debris flies or falls, your car can act as a shield for your shelter. This should allow you unhindered freedom to exit your shelter.
  3. Shelter registration – The state of Oklahoma has a storm shelter registry for homeowners. Once your shelter is installed, immediately file your shelter with your city or county. This enables first responders to find your shelter and ensure that you are okay. Rescue units are outfitted with handheld computers to assist in the storm shelter search. If you are renting your home, you can call your county emergency assistance office to make sure your home’s shelter is registered.

There is no possible way the human body can withstand a tornado, by itself. Storm shelters save lives. Don’t let fear keep you from being safe during a tornado. In fact, the odds of being trapped inside of your storm shelter are extremely low, even lower if you follow proper safety preparation. Stay safe during tornado season, install a storm shelter today.

Storm Shelter Registration Links:

Edmond:  http://edmondok.com/index.aspx?NID=500

Nichols Hills:  http://www.nicholshills.net/sectionindex.asp?sectionid=65

Norman:  http://www.normanok.gov/content/storm-shelter-registration-form

Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office offers registration online for Oklahoma County residents. Register here.

https://www.oklahomacounty.org/sheriff/stormshelter/

Bixby:  http://www.bixby.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/STORM-SHELTER1.pdf

Broken Arrow:  http://www.brokenarrowok.gov/398/Storm-Shelter-Registration

Glenpool — Community Development Department — 918-322-5409

Muskogee:   http://www.cityofmuskogee.com/how_do_i_(faq)/register_a_storm_shelter.php

Owasso: http://www.cityofowasso.com/FormCenter/Emergency-Management-8/Storm-Shelter-Registration-53

Tulsa:  https://www.cityoftulsa.org/public-safety/storm-shelter-registration.aspx

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