March is the official start of Severe Weather Preparedness Month. For many Tennesseeans, 2020 was one of the most active severe weather years in recent memory. In 2020, 35 tornadoes touched down in Tennessee (1). These tornadoes combined resulted in 27 deaths, hundreds of injuries, and billions of dollars in damage (1). Such devastating weather events have proven that we need to be “Weather Ready” in Middle Tennessee at all times. Preparing for severe weather events before they strike will help you stay safe throughout the year. The following resources and tips can help you prepare for severe weather.
Preparing your family
Although severe weather in the Tennessee Valley region can happen at any time of the year, Spring and Fall are the most common periods for severe weather to take place. March, April, and May have historically been the most active for severe weather in the Middle Tennesse region (2).
● It is important to familiarize yourself with the terms used to describe severe weather threats and react accordingly.
● Watch - conditions are favorable for violent weather. This is the time to monitor the weather for changing conditions. Be prepared to take shelter.
● Warning - severe weather/tornado has been spotted on the ground and/or indicated on the radar. Take cover immediately. Turn on a battery-operated radio or television and wait for updated weather information.
● Purchase a weather alert radio and keep some spare batteries on hand.
● Maintain an emergency supply kit. This will come in handy if there are extended power outages due to a severe weather event. An emergency supply kit should include the following:
● Flashlights with extra batteries
● 3-day supply of bottled drinking water
● 3-day supply of nonperishable food
● First-aid kit
● Can opener and utility knife
● Eating and cooking utensils
● Paper towels, toilet paper, soap, and detergent
● Blankets and sleeping bags
● Fire extinguisher
● Shut-off wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
● Signal flare, matches, and whistle
● Medications or special need items (diapers/formula/etc.)
What to do when a tornado warning is issued for your area:
Go to the lowest most interior part of your home immediately. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
● Stay away from window
● Refrain from opening windows
● Use your arms to protect your head, and/or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag
● Be mindful of where heavy objects are on the floor above
Tornado Warning Signs
The science of weather forecasting is not perfect. Severe weather events do occur without warning. Stay alert to the sky and look/listen for these signs of tornadic activity:
● Strong, persistent rotation in the base of the cloud
● Whirling dust or debris on the ground under the cloud base
● Loud continuous roar or rumble
● Small bright blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm
Have an emergency plan in place and know where to take shelter at home, work, or any other venue you frequently visit. Be aware of where you can quickly take shelter. Practice your plan at home at least once a year. Let’s all do our part to be as prepared and aware as possible heading into severe weather season!
For additional information on severe weather or other hazards, visit the following website: