GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Severe weather can happen at any time of year. Tornadoes, lightning, large hail, and damaging winds are all dangerous, but there are ways to stay safe.
You just need to be prepared.
GET THE SAFE SPACE IN YOUR HOUSE READY
Your home is one of the places that you can be most prepared. You know the ins and outs of your own living space, so there are fewer unknown variables that might make things more complicated.
If you live in a house and a severe weather warning is issued, make sure you go to the lowest story possible and stay away from windows. The basement is always going to be the safest place. For houses that don’t have a basement, an interior closet or bathroom on the ground floor will likely be your safest option.
Make sure your entire family knows where the safe spot is and when they should be in it. This will ensure everyone is safe even if you’re not home.
Flying debris is what harms the most people during a severe weather event. There are some common household items you should have with you in your safe spot for an extra level of protection. Put on a bike helmet or cover your head with a blanket or pillow to lower the risk of injury.
Also stock your safe space with an emergency kit. It should include things like water, first aid items, nonperishable food, a flashlight, a NOAA weather radio, cellphones and chargers, batteries and any medications you need.
DO NOT STAY IN A MOBILE HOME
For anyone who lives in a mobile home, preparation is even more important.
Mobile homes are very susceptible to storm damage, so they are never safe during a severe weather event. It’s important that you leave the mobile home and find shelter in a safer location.
Make sure you’re aware of the weather forecast each day. Make sure your phone has a weather app and sign up for severe weather alerts.
If it looks like a day when the weather could turn dangerous, start thinking ahead. Plan on going to a safe place nearby. This could be a friend’s house or a business that you can get into any time of day or night. Some mobile home communities may even have a storm shelter.
Head to your safe place when a watch is issued; don’t wait for the warning. A warning means severe weather is imminent, and it might be too late to evacuate at that point.
If you are still in your mobile home when severe weather is bearing down, it is still best to leave. Get into a ditch and cover your head with your hands.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE AWAY FROM HOME
Severe weather doesn’t only happen when you’re at home. It can happen while you’re grocery shopping, in the car or at the beach. No matter where you are, it’s important to have a plan.
At the beach, you may be far away from the shelter of a building or your car. You may not hear thunder over the sound of the waves, so you may not know lightning is headed your way.
To stay safe at the beach, make sure you’re watching the sky in all directions. If you notice dark clouds getting closer or see any signs of lightning, act quickly. Get back to your car or the closest enclosed building. An open structure, like a picnic shelter, is not good enough: it’s not going to offer much protection.
If you’re planning on taking a boat out on Lake Michigan, make sure to check the marine forecast before heading out. If threatening clouds start to appear or the waves begin to get larger, head to the nearest shore immediately. Make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket.
A car is also not a very safe place to be during severe weather. Tornadoes, strong winds, and large hail can make a simple drive turn dangerous quickly. Try to delay your trip if severe weather is possible.
When severe weather happens and you are in your car, find a sturdy building you can take shelter in. Do not pull off under a highway overpass.
Ditches and culverts should be your last resort. If you do have to get in a ditch, crouch down and cover your head with your hands.
It’s a myth that tornadoes never hit urban areas. If you’re outside in a downtown area, get to the nearest open building or even an underground parking garage. Remember, if you’re hearing thunder, lightning could strike at any second.
No matter where you are, if you have a plan, you’ll be able to keep yourself and your family safe.