This week, March 12-16 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Kansas as tornado season begins.
The highest threat time for tornadoes is typically April 1 to June 15, but this year it has been advanced on the calendar in part due to the extraordinarily mild winter which makes the spring shift of atmospheric patterns more severe.
This year, the National Weather Service has adopted a new acronym "DUCK" which is short for:
- Down to the lowest level;
- Under something sturdy;
- Cover your head; and
- Keep in the shelter until the storm has passed, said state climatologist for Kansas, Mary Knapp.
"These simple phrases can be a quick reminder for anyone of their safety plan during the chaos of a storm," said Knapp, who directs the Kansas Weather Data Library, based at Kansas State University. She is a K-State delegate to the Extension Disaster Education Network www.eden.lsu.edu.
Knapp said weather terms are also important to safety.
"Watch means to do just that, watch for changing conditions. The National Weather Service may indicate that they are expecting to issue watches several days early. Be at the ready and give more attention to the weather," Knapp said. "Warning means that the severe event is actually occurring. The time for planning is over. Take action immediately."
"Tornado sirens are for outdoor alerts only," said Knapp. "If you don't have a weather radio, consider adding one to your safety supplies, as the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day."
NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office. This technology allows users to select the area of interest when receiving warnings/alerts.
Springtime means warmer weather and more outdoor activity, but also an increased possibility of severe weather and flash flooding.
"Flash floods are denoted by rapidly rising waters with little or no advance warning," said Mary Knapp, state climatologist for Kansas. "Two key factors are rainfall rates and duration. As little as a quarter of an inch of rainfall can cause a flash flood if it falls quickly enough, so roads that you drive on every day can quickly become dangerous."
Other important factors are topography, soil conditions, and ground cover, said Knapp, who directs the Kansas Weather Data Library, based at Kansas State University. She is a K-State delegate to the Extension Disaster Education Network http://www.eden.lsu.edu.
"Obviously, low lying areas are at greater risk for flooding and recurring rains on already saturated grounds increase the risk of flash flooding," she said. "Finally, everyone should keep in mind that urbanization can increase runoff by two to five times what would occur with more natural ground cover. And streets can form fast-moving channels for that runoff."