Be ‘weather-ready’ as spring storm season arrives

The week of March 23 marked Severe Weather Awareness Week in Nebraska. The National Weather Service wants you to be ready when severe weather threatens, especially as the country deals with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and advice from health officials, the weather service made one important change. In order to practice social distancing, Nebraska and Iowa cancelled their statewide tornado drills planned for this week.

Businesses typically use the statewide tornado drill to practice their own safety plans, reminding employees where to shelter and their designated safe spots. Because many people are working from home and most tornado shelters are in confined spaces, state officials thought it best to cancel the drill.

Even though many people are focused on staying safe and healthy amid COVID-19, this week is a good time to make sure you know how to protect yourself and your family during severe weather. In Nebraska, spring can mean thunderstorms, strong winds, hail, tornadoes, and yes, even snowstorms. That means Nebraskans must be prepared for all kinds of weather situations and hazards.

A simple reminder is when there is a storm watch, that means to be prepared. When there is a warning issued, that means take action.

Mammatus clouds spotted in west Omaha during a storm last year. Clouds like these often indicate storms are coming.

Some good tips from the National Weather Service on staying safe during tornado season can be found here.

Some weather facts from last year:

Number of tornadoes: 35 (the 70-year average is 42)

Longest track: 10.25 miles (Sept. 20, rural southwestern Box Butte County)

Greatest width: 600 yards (May 17, near Cozad in Dawson County)

Strongest: EF3 (May 17, northeast of Stockville in Frontier County)

Most in one day: 15 (May 17)

First tornado of 2019: May 5

Last tornado of 2019: Sept. 20

Deaths: 0

Injuries: 0

Largest hail: 3.0” on May 17 (Hitchcock County), May 27 (Chase County) and June 25 (Adams County)

Highest wind gust: 105 mph on Aug. 29 near Palisade in Hitchcock County, 105 mph on May 5 near Pleasant Dale in Lancaster County (both are estimates)

The weather service encourages each family to create a weather plan and designate a safe room in the house should they need to take shelter. Also, be sure to pack flashlights and a wireless radio in the room so you can listen to weather updates on the local news. Make sure to have extra batteries too.

Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.