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By Whitney Wyatt
The Red River Sun
CHILDRESS – Each spring the Panhandle encounters severe weather events including tornadoes, lightning, thunder, hail and flooding that can cause significant damage or even death, so preparing an emergency kit and staying weather aware are important.
Childress County Judge Kim Jones said the National Weather Center out of Lubbock keeps them informed, so her office can open the courthouse to residents who don’t have basements when a tornado is possible.
“If they see something that is forming, they send us emails,” she added. “When they do that, I automatically have the east and west doors unlocked all night long, so people can go there. Usually, the Constable is there to help people. The basement is very large and has enough room where we set up chairs.”
The American Red Cross recommends downloading the free Red Cross Emergency app or visiting redcross.org/prepare. They also have the following safety tips.
A tornado watch indicates tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. A tornado warning indicates a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar, and shelter should be taken immediately.
- Recognize signs of a tornado such as dark, green-tinted clouds, a wall cloud, large hail, a funnel cloud and a roaring noise similar to a freight train.
- Take shelter in a small room on the lowest level of the home, enclosed by four walls and away from any windows or doors. If in a multi-level building such as an apartment or hotel, find a secure hallway towards the center of the complex.
- For those who live in a mobile home or trailer, abandon the mobile home and seek shelter in a sturdy building or a vehicle. No area of a mobile home is safe during a tornado or other severe winds.
- Anyone outside who cannot get to a sturdy shelter should immediately get into a vehicle and drive to the closest shelter. Avoid bridges and overpasses. If flying debris or strong winds occur, people should pull over and park, keep their seat belts on and engine running and cover their heads.
Like tornadoes watches and warnings, a flood watch means flooding is possible and a flood warning means flooding is occurring or will occur soon. Know the flood risks in the area and which routes to use if the need to quickly evacuate occurs.
- Do not walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Six inches of fast-flowing water can knock people over, and two feet will float a car.
- If caught on a flooded road with rapidly rising waters, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. The depth of water may not be obvious, and the roadbed may have washed away.
- Floods can contaminate clean water sources, so it is important to fill bathtubs, sinks and several plastic bottles with clean drinking water. Fill enough for everyone in the household.
- If advised by local authorities, turn off utilities and unplug small appliances to reduce damage to the home. If left plugged in/turned on, power surges may cause extensive electrical damage.
Severe thunderstorm may produce hail, high winds and lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. If under a thunderstorm watch, stay informed as conditions are likely, If escalated to a thunderstorm warning, take action to shelter family and pets.
- Close shades or blinds over all windows and stay a good distance away from them. If debris or large hail shatters the windows, the glass can be caught by the shades and reduce the risk of injury.
- Avoid taking a shower or running water and unplug or avoid the use of electrical appliances and landline telephones. Metal pipes and wiring can carry electricity if struck by lightning.
- When driving, turn on flashers, pull safely over to the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure the vehicle is away from any trees or objects that could fall onto the vehicle.
- If outside, find shelter in a substantial, permanent and enclosed structure. Avoid gazebos, golf carts, baseball dugouts or other isolated structures in open areas, as they are often struck by lightning.