Lightning, wind and water all pose danger

Have a plan, have a kit, be prepared.

As Kansas enters severe weather season, these words of advice can make a difference if severe weather strikes.

Severe Weather Awareness Week is March 3-9. A statewide tornado drill was held Tuesday, March 5 with many taking the opportunity to practice their emergency plans, said Tim Branscom, Pratt County Emergency Manager.

"We are at the start of severe weather season," Branscom said. "It runs from March to May."

The first step in weather safety is staying informed. When severe weather threatens, watch TV, listen to the radio or follow weather alerts through free weather apps on cell phones or other social media.

A weather radio is a very good source of weather information and can alert people at night when a TV or other radio is off.

Weather radios are available in variety of stores including, Dillons, Walmart, Alco, Radio Shack, Orscheln or Skaggs.

Pratt County Emergency Management does frequent Facebook updates so they are a good weather information resource.

Before severe weather starts have a plan and practice the plan at least once a year. The plan should include where to go during and after the storm.

A kit should be prepared with a flash light, batteries, three day supply of water and food, blankets, clothes, shoes, extra medicine, diapers, pet food, first aid kit, photo copies of important documents, cash and coins.

Families should be prepared to take care of them selves as much as possible because it may take several hours for help to arrive.

If severe weather is in the area, take action immediately. Many people don't respond when they first hear of severe weather but seek out other sources of information such as another media source or contacting a neighbor or just going outside and looking up at the sky.

Pratt County will sound the emergency sirens if radar indicates a tornado, rotation is seen in the clouds or a tornado is seen on the ground.

An all-clear siren is not given in Pratt County. A second siren means take cover again. If an all-clear siren were sounded it might be the first time some heard it and be confusing so the county only sounds the sirens under emergency conditions, Branscom said.

The city has no public storm shelters so make preparations accordingly.

If a storm threatens take cover in an underground storm shelter or basement of a house or business. If no basement is available, take cover on the ground floor of a house in a small interior room with no windows.

Walls are the key in a tornado and the more the better.

"Put as many walls between you and the storm as possible," Branscom said.

Also get under something sturdy that could help take the weight of a wall if it collapsed. Blankets and a mattress also help protect from debris.

Get out of vehicles and abandon mobile homes because they tip over easily. From 1985 to 2005, 44 percent of tornado fatalities were in mobile homes, 25.3 percent in permanent homes and nine percent in vehicles.

After a storm, check on everyone's condition and assist the injured. Move to a safe location and assist others if possible. Avoid power lines and any area with the smell of gas.

While tornados are dangerous and cause serious injuries and death, lightning and flooding kill more every year than tornados.

Unlike a tornado or flood, lightning can reach out from 10 miles away and strike. A basic rule for lightning is if someone can hear thunder, lightning can strike, Branscom said.

The rule of thumb for lightning go indoors until the storm can't be heard or wait 30 minutes before going out again.

Flooding is also a severe weather danger. Water can be deceptive. It may look shallow but it can wash away a road or bridge and leave no obvious sign they are gone.

In flooded areas, the best advice is "Turn around, don't drown." Even if water has not washed out a road or bridge, it takes just six inches of running water to knock someone over. It only takes a foot to 18 inches of water to float a car.

The speed and depth of the water aren't the only concerns in a flood. The contents of the water, such as tree branches and other debris, can cause injury or knock people off their feet.

Flash floods can strike quickly so it is important to be alert for fast rising water.