March is Severe Storms Preparedness Month

The one thing Kentucky residents can be sure of is that the weather is ever-changing and unpredictable. It’s particularly true in the spring when the seasons change, and severe storms can be at their worst. That’s why Lexington Emergency Management designates the entire month of March as Severe Storms Preparedness Month.

“As we’ve experienced over the past several weeks, Kentucky weather can change drastically over a matter of hours, and with those changes, severe weather can develop,” said Pat Dugger, director of Lexington Emergency Management. “Each year, we face the dangers of severe weather in many forms. From storms that create tornadoes and straight-line winds to deadly lightning, flooding and winter blizzards, and even ice storms. It is important to ensure the safety of Lexington’s residents. We want people to plan ahead now and know what to do when severe weather threatens our community.”

A statewide tornado drill will be conducted in conjunction with Severe Storms Preparedness Month, on Wednesday, March 4, 2020, at approximately 10:07 a.m. The National Weather Service and Kentucky Broadcasters Association will issue a tornado warning test message. 

Across Kentucky, outdoor warning sirens will sound. Weather alert radios will activate. Local television and radio stations will broadcast the alert. Many mobile devices will alert with the message as well. In Lexington, the outdoor warning sirens will sound a test chime, followed by a test announcement. This drill will allow residents to practice tornado safety measures.

The broadcast test message will emphasize this is only a test of the alert system. During the test alert, all Kentuckians, businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, educators, and government agencies are encouraged to practice their tornado safety drill and update their emergency plan.

Severe weather preparedness begins with knowing the severe spring weather risks:

  • Tornadoes
  • Hail
  • Lightning
  • Wind
  • Flooding

If you do not have a tornado/severe thunderstorm plan, make one using these guidelines:

  • Designate a tornado/severe weather shelter in an interior room on the lowest level of a building, away from windows. Basements are best, but, if there is no basement, choose an interior bathroom, closet or other enclosed space on the lowest level of a building.
  • Tell everyone where the designated shelter is and post the location.
  • If you live in a mobile home or other manufactured housing, locate the nearest building where you can take shelter in case of a severe storm. NO MOBILE HOME IS A SAFE SHELTER FROM A TORNADO OR SEVERE THUNDERSTORM.

To conduct a tornado drill at home or work:

  • Announce the start of the drill. 
  • Participants should move as quickly as possible to the designated tornado shelter.
  • Once in the weather shelter area, participants should crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down, covering their heads with their hands.
  • Wait 3-5 minutes. Then, announce the mock tornado has passed, and the drill is complete.
  • After the drill, perform an assessment.  Determine if the shelter you chose was large enough for everyone. Was it easy to get to and uncluttered?

During severe weather, if you are caught outdoors and unable to access an indoor shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.  If you’re in a car on the road, drive to the nearest sturdy structure, and take shelter inside. Do not park under a bridge or overpass as these can become “wind tunnels” for storm-swept debris. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

Remember, outdoor sirens in Fayette County are not designed to warn people who are indoors. They’re designed to warn people who are in parks and golf courses.  Your best single alerting system is to have a NOAA All-Hazards weather radio in your home – Preferably the bedroom.  Remember that tornadoes and severe storms can strike during the night.  This is the most effective way to monitor severe weather watches and warnings at any time of day or night. 

Homes and businesses alike should have and monitor weather alert radios, which automatically respond and sound off for NWS severe weather watches and warnings 24 hours a day.

Lexington Emergency Management has some additional ways for residents to connect with agency emergency and preparedness information. LEXALERTS allows residents to register their cell phone, home phone, and email and receive alerts about community emergencies, some severe weather events, and other events.  The BeReadyLexington mobile app gives Android and iPhone users access to the latest preparedness and emergency notifications. More information about these services is available from the website.

Preparedness information is also available via the Lexington Emergency Management Facebook page at @LexingtonKYEM and the Division of Emergency Management Twitter account at @Lexkyem.