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How To Stay Safe During Storms

Aug 17, 2007
It started out as a simple trip to the grocery store, but ended up in terror. Heading out in the dark on a rain swept night, the three young people in rural Missouri never saw the rushing water that had risen treacherously from the creek bed to swamp the narrow road in their path.

The car was immediately caught in the current and swept downstream. Two of the young passengers managed to escape the sinking vehicle, but the driver could not get free and drowned. "We never saw the water," one of the survivors marveled. "It just blended in with the color of the road."

While storms are necessary to our existence, they also present a threat to it. Still, there are steps we can take to outwit the forces of nature.

Thunderstorms And Lightning

Lightning kills about 40 Americans a year, and can strike 10 miles from the rain area. If you can hear thunder or see lightning, you are already at risk. During an electrical storm:

* Get inside a home, large building, or automobile (with the windows rolled up).

* Stay away from open doors and windows, plumbing, fireplaces, and all metal objects.

* Don't use plug-in electrical equipment like hair dryers, tooth brushes, or electric razors.

* Don't take a bath or shower.

* Do not use the telephone, except in the case of an emergency.

* If you are caught outside:

-In a group of people, spread out to minimize potential injuries.

-Avoid being in or near picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, bleachers or metal fences.

-Avoid hilltops, and tall objects such as isolated trees or poles.

-In the open, seek a low area, squat with your hands on your knees and keep twice as far from nearby trees as the trees are high.

-Get off golf courses, athletic fields, tennis courts, bicycles, and mowers. Remove shoes with metal cleats.

-Get out of the water and off small boats.

-In a forest, find a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

Tornado Warning

Over 1,000 tornadoes strike the U.S. each year, killing about 40 people and injuring hundreds more. In a house or apartment:

* Go to a basement if available. Seek shelter under sturdy furniture, a workbench or a stairwell. Cover your head, or keep a helmet handy.

* In homes without basements, take cover in the center of the house. Go to a small room without windows, closet, or hallway on the lowest floor. Or hide under heavy furniture against a strong, inside wall. Put as many walls as possible between you and the storm.

* The National Weather Service (NWS) recommends keeping all windows closed.

* Draw blinds and shades over windows to reduce glass damage.

While only five percent of Americans live in mobile homes, about 45 percent of people killed in tornadoes were in mobile homes when the twisters hit. The best advice is:

* Evacuate your mobile home and seek shelter in a building.

* If necessary, find a low spot such as a ditch or ravine.

Flash Floods

Flash floods and river floods have become the biggest weather related killer across the U.S., causing about 50 deaths annually.

* Do not camp near small streams. Rain upstream can cause a flash flood. Camp on higher ground.

* Pay attention to signs warning of areas prone to flash floods.

* Do not try to cross a flowing stream on foot if the water is above your knees.

* It only takes two feet of water to make a car float. If your car does stall, abandon it immediately and move to higher ground.

* Be very cautious at night when it's harder to see flood dangers.

* Never try to cross rushing water. If you must cross standing water, be sure you know the water is below your floorboards. Drive slowly so you don't stir waves.

More Survival Tips

* Buy and use a NOAA Weather Radio for continuous broadcasts of weather information from the NWS.

* For more information on dealing with weather hazards, go to the FEMA website.

The American Meteorological Society provided some of the information.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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