Reliable Ways to Receive Weather Warnings

Would you rather deal with a hurricane or a tornado? My answer to that question is, “Neither.”

But that’s not an option for people living in the path of these devastating storms. Both can be deadly, destroy property and cause power outages.

I suppose the only advantage to a hurricane over a tornado is the advance warning. Hurricanes can usually be spotted heading your way days ahead of time, giving you time to prepare or evacuate. Tornadoes seldom arrive with more than a few minutes’ warning.

And really, that’s what it comes down to with weather emergencies. The more time you have to take cover or evacuate, the better off you’ll be.

Windstorm and Laura a 1-2 punch

Just recently, two major storms reminded Americans of how damaging violent weather can be. And how important advance warnings are.

On August 10, a derecho raced some 770 miles in 14 hours across the Midwest. By the time it wore down, more than 1 million homes and businesses lost power.

The word “derecho” is not widely known. It’s a windstorm caused by severe thunderstorms.

Starting in southeast South Dakota and eastern Nebraska, this one caused damages to countless structures and trees. Along the way it flew through Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Plus Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

Derecho wind gusts exceed 100 mph

The Midwest Derecho’s wind gusts were measured at more than 74 miles per hour in over 35 locations.

Some places in Iowa got wind gusts of 90 mph or higher. Including one measuring 112 mph at Midway.

By the time it reached northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, wind speeds were still in the 70s and 80s.

For comparison, these winds speeds are very similar to those produced by a Category 1 hurricane.

Hurricane reaches Cat 4 status

The other recent serious weather event was Hurricane Laura. It made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. It was the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the Pelican State since 1856.

As it crossed the Louisiana and Texas coasts, it had 150 mph winds. They ripped off roofs of homes and businesses, and destroyed structures.

Flash flooding occurred in multiple locations, with some areas receiving up to 18 inches of rain. Some parts of southwest Louisiana saw a storm surge of over nine feet.

Interstate 10 was shut down outside of Lake Charles, Louisiana. That’s after an industrial plant caught fire. The plant produces chlorine-based products, prompting a stay-at-home order. 

Hurricane Center nails location and time

It’s challenging to predict exactly where a hurricane is going to make landfall. There are just too many variables to consider.

This time the National Hurricane Center was extremely accurate. Some 87 hours before Laura reached land, the Center predicted landfall within a mile of where it occurred. They also accurately predicted the landfall time.

But nobody’s perfect. Forecasters underestimated the strength of the storm by some 50 mph. That is a significant difference.

Hurricane Laura ended up causing 34 deaths in the U.S. The only “saving grace” was that less Gulf water was pushed inland than expected. Due to the storm tracking farther east than anticipated.

Don’t disable WEA feature

Regardless of whether you have ever dealt with a hurricane or derecho, you’ve experienced severe weather. And you will again.

You can improve your survival chances by being able to access reliable weather warnings. This can come in a variety of forms. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

First is your cellphone. Most of the newer ones have the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) feature. It sends out a loud tone to warn you of an impending emergency.

Among those emergencies are tornadoes and hurricanes. Plus thunderstorms and flashfloods. As well as windstorms, dust storms, hazmat situations and Amber alerts.

These alerts work. Don’t disable them just because the screeching and beeping noises can be annoying. That’s so they will catch your attention. They are designed to only activate phones connected to a local cellphone tower.

Plenty of weather apps

There are also a number of weather apps you can download onto your cellphone. They include Storm Shield, iAlert, AccuWeather and The Weather Channel. As well as weatherUSA, ping4alerts! and The Emergency Email & Wireless Network.

With Storm Shield, wherever you are, storm-based alerts are available. It does not use GPS, so it shouldn’t wear down your phone battery.

iAlert provides weather warnings via text or email. You can select the alerts you want for any of 30,000-plus U.S. cities.

Ping4alerts! delivers alerts regarding weather, traffic and school closures. Plus natural disasters, power outages and more. 

Weather radio a must

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio is also a great way to keep tabs on which weather threats are in your area.

These radios broadcast official National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24/7.

You can program your county’s six-digit code into this device. That way it will sound a loud alarm when potentially dangerous weather is approaching.

Some of these weather radios allow you to choose which particular alerts you want to receive. And which you don’t.

Don’t forget TV news

Television news is another way to gain information about extreme weather in your area. Especially if you do not have a cellphone or weather radio handy.

Even during normal programming time, extreme weather warnings will scroll along the bottom of your screen.

If the situation is dire enough, the networks will break into that programming to issue warnings for certain areas.

Your TV is susceptible to power outages. But keep it on until that happens to augment your other emergency weather information.

Don’t depend on sirens

One emergency weather warning system you should NOT count on is tornado sirens.

While better than nothing, don’t depend on them. They often cannot be heard inside a home or business. Which is probably where you’ll be during bad weather.

And if the wind is strong against the direction where the siren originates, it may not be heard outdoors either.

These sirens are also susceptible to power outages and equipment failures. Other warning systems are usually more reliable.

Extreme weather can be devastating to life and property, but property can be replaced. Early warnings can help save lives. 

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