April of 2011 saw the largest number of tornadoes for a single month on record, with 758 twisters that claimed 364 lives. The following May, there were 326 tornadoes that killed an additional 178 people around the nation.
In fact, 2011 saw a record breaking 14 Billion-dollar-plus weather related disasters (see Weathering Heights: A Year For The Record Books) across the United States.
And that, despite relatively few hurricane strikes.
Weather-related disasters are on the rise around the world, partially due to climate change, and partially due to the fact that as our populations increase there are more of us sprawled out in harm’s way.
While many states have promoted a severe weather awareness week for years (and NOAA promotes their Hurricane Preparedness Week in May of each year), this year will mark the first national Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
Admittedly, I may be more keenly aware of the weather than most, having spent the bulk of my 58 years under the red splotch (see above map) over Florida that indicates the greatest number of thunderstorm days in the United States.
And 15 of those years were spent afloat, aboard sailboats with large lightning rods (we called them masts), pointed skyward.
While they may see fewer days with thunderstorms, people who live in the Midwestern and Southern states are actually at greater risk of seeing severe hail and large tornadoes.
Lightning (something Florida is also famous for) claims another 30 to 50 lives each year.
Add in floods, heat waves (one in the early 1980s claimed thousands of lives), droughts, hurricanes, blizzards and ice storms, and a variety of weather-related accidents – and the yearly toll from severe or adverse weather grows even larger.
Of all of the potential disasters you and your family are apt to face during your lifetime, the most likely are due to severe weather.
NOAA’s National Weather Service has put together a new web presence called Weather Ready Nation, which provides abundant information on preparing for severe weather, and a number of toolkits for spreading the word.
You can also connect with Weather Ready Nation and the National Weather Service via a number of social media outlets:
WRN Social MediaNOAA Youtube
NOAA Twitter Feed
NWS Twitter Feed
To “be a force of nature,” NOAA and FEMA encourage citizens to prepare for extreme weather by following these guidelines:
- Know your risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Check the weather forecast regularly and sign up for alerts from your local emergency management officials. Severe weather comes in many forms and your shelter plan should include all types of local hazards.
- Take action: Pledge to develop an emergency plan based on your local weather hazards and practice how and where to take shelter. Create or refresh an emergency kit for needed food, supplies and medication. Post your plan where visitors can see it. Learn what you can do to strengthen your home or business against severe weather. Obtain a NOAA Weather Radio. Download FEMA’s mobile app so you can access important safety tips on what to do before and during severe weather. Understand the weather warning system and become a certified storm spotter through the National Weather Service.
- Be a force of nature: Once you have taken action, tell your family, friends, school staff and co-workers about how they can prepare. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered with your social media network. Studies show individuals need to receive messages a number of ways before acting – and you can be one of those sources. When you go to shelter during a warning, send a text, tweet or post a status update so your friends and family know. You might just save their lives, too. For more information on how you can participate, visit www.ready.gov/severe-weather
While many people today seem to be obsessing about some unlikely 2012 doomsday event, the real day-to-day threat to your family’s safety come from more localized and likely disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and severe weather.
And finally, a few of my preparedness blogs you might wish to revisit include: