By Alan Sorensen
Severe Weather Awareness Week in Montana April 2 through April 6 is an opportunity for Montanans to review safety rules and ensure they have plans for severe weather-related emergencies.
Declared by the National Weather Service and the Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) of Montana, the week's observance will include daily topics of public interest.
In a news release issued in mid March, Rick Dittman, warning and coordination meteorologist with the Great Falls National Weather Service, provided some glimpses of Montana's historically severe weather.
The National Weather Service is responsible for issuing official watches, advisories and warnings to alert the public of impending severe weather. These warnings are broadcast on local radio and television stations and NOAA Weather Radio to ensure that people in harm's way are notified.
Severe Weather Awareness Week also is an opportunity for weather service personnel to inform the public about severe weather found in their area. The principle severe weather, other than winter cold and snow, is identified as severe thunderstorms.
Here's what a news release from the National Weather Service in Great Falls has to say about severe thunderstorms:
Thunderstorms always produce lightning. Lightning claims about 80 lives every year in the United States. When a thunderstorm becomes intense enough to produce hail greater than half of an inch in diameter, winds of 58 mph or stronger or a tornado, then the National Weather Service classifies that storm as severe.
Last year, severe thunderstorms in Montana produced hail as large as softballs, winds in excess of 100 mph and more than 20 tornadoes.
Besides lightning, severe thunderstorms can produce damaging straight-line winds, large hail, torrential rains, tornadoes or a combination of these destructive phenomena. If a severe thunderstorm strikes yours area, you may lose power or communication services. Are you prepared?
Here are some tips from the National Weather Service to help you minimize your risk from severe storms.
If you are outdoors and you hear thunder:
You can be struck by lightning Get indoors immediately;
If shelter is not available, lie as close to the ground as possible;
Stay away from isolated trees, large bodies of water or mountaintops.
While indoors during a thunderstorm:
Avoid using the telephone Lightning can travel through phone lines;
n Stay away from windows Damaging winds and debris are the main cause of injury from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes;
Keep a supply of fresh batteries, flashlights, candles, matches and a battery-powered radio or television in a familiar place in case of power outages;
When the National Weather Service issues a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or a Tornado Warning, you should take shelter immediately:
A basement room with no windows in the center of a sturdy home offers the best shelter from severe tornadic storms;
If no basement is available An interior room on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the next best alternative;
Avoid any room with windows Place as many walls between you and the storm as possible.
Have a plan for you and your family including:
A familiar meeting place if you become separated;
A safe storm shelter with a battery-operated radio or television set through which you can monitor severe weather updates;
Backup food and water supplies in case of power or communications outages.