Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Safety!

Severe summer storms can occur anywhere, and conditions can change rapidly.  The most important thing anyone can do to reassure their safety and the safety of  those around them is to be prepared.  Preparedness starts with you.

Having a Plan!
At home, have a plan in place that family members know what to do in the event of a severe storm.  It’s important to understand what type of severe weather risks are applicable to your community.  In Aroostook County, our primary concerns include severe summer storms, thunderstorms, tornados, damaging hail and high winds, severe winter storms that may also include high winds, snowfall or ice accumulation, flooding and wildfire emergencies.

Responding to any of these events will require specific preparedness steps.  However, the first step of any safety plan is where can you or your family go that’s safe.  In a flooding or wildfire situation, your family may be safest evacuating to shelter.  However, during a high wind or tornado like event, you may want to shelter in a safe place within your home, such as a basement.  Talk to your family about these different types of hazards.

To receive detailed information on how to prepare for different types of emergencies, please visit

Identifying the Signs of a Tornado
A tornado is a vortex of violently rotating winds and is usually accompanied by very severe thunderstorm systems.  While weather forecasting has advanced significantly even in recent years, some tornadoes can occur with little warning.  Being alert to the sky and your surroundings is critical for maintaining your safety.  Some signs of a tornado include:

– A strong, visibly rotating cloud system.
– Whirling dust or debris below a storm system.  Some tornados appear without a visible funnel.
– Signficiant precipitation, hail or wind followed by a dead calm or an abrupt shift in winds speed and direction.
– A loud continuous roar which does not fare in a few seconds like thunder.

Receiving Alerts and Warnings
Many people have at one point or another received emergency alert notifications on their cell phone.  Wireless Emergency Alerts, or WEA, is a public safety system that allows most cell phone users to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting them of imminent threats to safety in their area.  Alerts include government emergencies, weather emergencies and weather alerts.  For most users, these messages are turned on by default.  Additionally, users are not charged for data to deliver these messages, and messages are not counted against messaging plans.

Wireless Emergency Alerts include a special, distinct tone and vibration, repeated twice.  Typically the alert will show the time and type of alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert.  The message should be short and concise, not exceeding 90 characters.

There are three main classes of alerts: Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threat (Severe Weather), and AMBER Alerts.  Users can disable all alerts except for Presidential Alerts.

For more information on if your carrier or device supports Wireless Emergency Alerts, or how to manage these alerts, contact your cellular provider.

Alerts and warnings also go out through a number of other media channels, including radio and television.  Having a battery operated radio for incidents that include loss of power may be an important way to receive information.

Another important device that can assist with receiving critical alerts and notifications is a NOAA Weather Radio.  These devices give a loud audible alert to notify of an imminent severe weather threat.  NOAA Weather Radios are realtively inexpensive and can be purchased online or from a number of retailers.

Finally, numerous cell phone apps from FEMA, the Red Cross and others provide weather alerts directly to your cell phone.

Preparedness is Key!
Understanding the risks in your area, and planning accordingly is the most important thing we can do to stay safe during an emergency, including from severe weather.  Have a plan, and talk to you family about what to do.  Visit Ready.Gov for more information on how to prepare and stay safe.  Contact your local community for information on available shelters or other resources.

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