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I’m writing this under threat of tornadoes for the fourth day in a row. My children are playing outside, my husband is napping on the couch and all is well in my home. I’ve got the weather playing quietly on the TV, a bowl of snacks nearby and not a care in the world except hoping the storms will stay away long enough for the cookies in my oven to turn out beautifully.
You might think I’m just another crazy Oklahoman… and you’d be right. It’s not that we don’t take these things seriously, because believe me, we do. Six years ago, massive tornadoes swept our state, wounding hundreds and killing 24 sweet souls. Five of my friends lost everything they owned. My beloved state has known fear and danger on a level that is unbelievable to those who have never seen Mother Nature’s wrath firsthand.
So, how do we do it, knowing what is worst case scenario? How do we bake in the face of danger, send our kids outside when the map is lit up like Christmas lights on the meteorologist’s screens and nap without fear? We prepare! We plan! And we pray! Then we turn on our favorite show and settle in to see what happens.
If you want to prepare like an Okie, here are some simple things to know.
Preparing for a Severe Storm or Tornado Warning
1. Understand what different weather alerts mean and what alerts are likely in your area.
Depending on your location and time of year, different weather alerts can require different types of planning and preparation. No matter where you are, WATCH means there is the potential for dangerous weather while WARNING means DANGEROUS WEATHER IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. If you’re under a tornado warning, you need to be seeking shelter immediately.
For help understanding different alerts, check out the National Weather Service’s list of different weather alerts. https://www.weather.gov/lwx/WarningsDefined
2. Put together an emergency kit.
Regardless of what type of severe weather you’re expecting, having an emergency kit is essential! During storm season, we keep bags packed by the back door at all times so we can be ready to go to our shelter as soon as it is necessary. Here’s what we’ve got in ours:
- Essential paperwork. We keep ours filed all year in this type of folder– you should, too! The whole file returns to our safe after we’re out of danger. We keep all our important documents on hand here like birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, title/insurance information, house deeds, inventory, etc. In case you lose your home, standing in line for hours to attempt to regather those important documents will be added misery that can be avoided easily!
- Change of clothes for every member of the family and STURDY shoes. It’s difficult to think of the worst case but in the event that your home and neighborhood are destroyed, having appropriate clothing will make a big difference in your recovery. We like to include a couple pairs of work gloves, extra socks and sturdy shoes. No flip flops!
- Food and water. We usually keep water year-round in our shelter and pack a bag of food to take down with us. It is recommended that you have a 3 day supply of food and water for every member of your family.
- Comfort items. Nobody likes the thought of losing everything they own, but what if you did? What sentimental item would you want, if you could just have one thing? We recommend backing up photos on a flash drive (because carrying 400 photo albums when baseball sized hail is coming down really isn’t an option) and having each family member choose one comfort item to take with them. I grab a bag of jewelry, my kids grab stuffed animals, blankets or a book and my husband grabs me. Just kidding. He grabs his Grandpa’s gun.
- First aid items. We keep a fully stocked first aid kit like this one in our shelter at all times. Because my husband is a police officer, he has a larger one he’ll grab on the way out, too.
- Personal hygiene items
3. Let someone know where you’ll be and know where your friends and neighbors will be.
Having an evacuation plan if needed is extremely important, but it’s also helpful to let others know where you will be in case you need to be rescued. Be specific. Give complete addresses when possible or even drop your location with your phone.
Ask your neighbors and friends about their plans and keep the information in your emergency kit. It might seem like overkill, but knowing where people are (and aren’t) can save time and lives!
There’s no need to be afraid of bad weather. It happens all over the world, all year long. If you do some simple planning ahead of time, you can avoid a lot of stress in the moment of a severe storm or tornado warning. Maybe you’ll even be comfortable enough to make some cookies while you watch your local forecast!
Originally published June 13, 2019