Severe weather season every year bears its own signature.
The 2012 once began Saturday into Sunday April 14-15, when more than 90 tornadoes were reported across Kansas and an EF-3 slammed into south Wichita, leaving thousands of people homeless.
State climatologist Mary Knapp said Kansans have compelling reasons to make preparations for this year's tornado season, which peaks from April 15 to June 30.
Knapp said the fact that number of people heeded warnings and took cover saved lives when the tornado struck Wichita, causing extensive damage to dozens of homes. There were some injuries reported, but no fatalities.
"Based on the Storm Prediction Center data from 1980-2009, Kansas ranks first in the number of severe tornadoes (EF4 & EF5)," said Knapp, who is director of the Kansas Weather Data Library based at Kansas State University. "Tornadoes are most common in the early afternoon to late evening, and during the spring from March to June. However, they can occur at any time."
She recommends that families and businesses, alike, take steps to be as prepared as possible.
Review your severe weather safety plans. Consider how you will monitor changing weather conditions. It is a good idea to have more than one method to receive the warning. That way if one system isn't operational, you have another available.
Buy a weather radio. Using a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio brings a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly into your home or business. These radios now feature special area messaging called "SAME", which allows you to select the area of interest when receiving warnings and alerts. Some versions have additional features such as strobe lights and bed shakers that can serve special needs.
Sign up to receive text messages and other alerts over the phone. Local radio and television stations also are good way of getting up-to-date information. R emember tornado sirens are designed to alert people to danger in an outdoor setting. They are not designed to be heard inside of buildings.
Determine where you will seek shelter. If there is a designated storm shelter near where you live or work, that would be the first choice. If one is not available, seek shelter at the lowest level, placing as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Interior rooms, such as closets and bathrooms, are good choices. Planning this location in advance and talking to family members and/or work colleagues allows you to respond quickly when needed.
Store emergency supplies in the area in which you will seek shelter. Those supplies should include a flashlight, portable radio and batteries, water and other essentials.
Keep in mind that a tornado is a unique emergency and that supplies ideal for general emergencies such as hurricanes and earthquakes are not necessarily best in this situation. Your tornado shelter should include a crowbar, pick-axe, shovel, blankets, sturdy shoes for each family member, spare batteries, coach's whistles and road flares. First aid tools such as bandages, hydrogen peroxide, tweezers, and antibiotic creams could come in handy. Tylenol, Ibuprofen and baby pain relievers are a good idea. If anybody is on prescription drugs, tuck away a three-day supply to give you doses in the interim it takes to get refills. Keep OTC drugs like allergy medicines in reserve too.
Remember, tornado rescue is usually a short-term event. You are not likely to have to survive days or weeks without food or water, but you are extremely likely to have to dig your way out of a pile of debris or alert rescue workers that you are trapped.
When traveling, be alert to conditions that may develop along your route. In many cases, it is safer to stop and allow the storm to pass rather than try to drive through it. Remember that a highway overpass is not a safe shelter in the event of a storm. In addition to the danger from the storm, you are at risk from other vehicles.
"Remember that not all tornadoes have the clear, visible funnel," Knapp said. "Tornadoes can be completely wrapped in rain, making them difficult to detect with the naked eye."
A final caution is that severe storms, whether or not they include a tornado, are also a source of lightning, high winds, hail and flash floods. Any of these hazards can be just as deadly as a tornado, Knapp added.