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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 3

Severe Weather Preparedness

The 2017 severe weather season has begun early across Texas, with tornadoes recently reported across the northern, eastern and central parts of the state. There are several ways that both the public and emergency management community can be prepared for Texas severe weather season.

Texas Severe Weather

The severe weather season in Texas typically extends from late February through early June, with the peak of the season varying for different parts of the state. Severe weather normally occurs during the day from late afternoon through the early overnight hours, but can occur at any point during the day or night and on any day of the year. The main threats in Texas from severe weather include tornadoes, large hail, damaging thunderstorm winds and flash flooding.

For more information check out data from the Storm Prediction Center: Severe Weather Information and Severe Weather Climatology.

Three Ways to Receive Warnings
To begin preparing for severe weather season, one of the steps the National Weather Service (NWS) advises is to have three ways to receive severe weather notifications. This advice applies to the public and emergency managers alike. Below are several potential sources of warning information.

  • Television and Radio
  • Weather Radio – Still one of the most dependable ways to get severe weather warnings, the weather radio provides a way to get the standard forecast but also alarms when watches and warnings are issued. It is designed to wake someone up during the night if severe weather approaches.
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) – These automatic alerts are sent to your phone if the cell tower it is pinging is located within an NWS Warning. The WEA messages are sent for Flash Flood and Tornado Warnings.
  • iNWS (for Emergency Managers) – This service for NWS partners allows for mobile and desktop notifications of NWS products. The alerts range from severe weather alerts to river forecasts and flood warnings. Visit InteractiveNWS (iNWS) for more information or to set up an account.
  • NWSChat (for Emergency Managers) – This is a non-public chatroom for NWS partners to submit reports, get detailed forecast information, and communicate with the local NWS forecast office. To sign up, contact the Warning Coordination Meteorologist from your local NWS office.
  • Social Media – Each Texas NWS forecast office has a Twitter and Facebook page where they post up-to-date weather information. Many offices also auto-tweet the severe weather warnings they issue.
  • National Weather Service and FEMA app – While the NWS does not have an app, they do have a mobile website. In addition, the FEMA app for Android and iPhone provides an option to sign up for Severe Weather Alerts.

With the arrival of severe weather season, each Texas NWS office is presenting their Skywarn Severe Weather talks. These are trainings for the general public and city/county officials on types of severe weather, how to become a storm spotter, and how to prepare for severe weather. Each office has their own Skywarn schedule and most can be found via their website. Here are a few links to the Skywarn information for this spring:

If you are an emergency manager for a county, city or organization (hospital, company, etc.) you can contact the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for your area to schedule a Skywarn talk. Contacts can be found at the end of this article.

In addition to the Skywarn training, the StormReady Program is offered by the NWS so that communities, counties, Indian tribal governments, universities and colleges, military bases, government sites, commercial enterprises and other groups are better prepared to save lives from the onslaught of severe weather through advanced planning, education and awareness. For more information, review StormReady and visit with your local Warning Coordination Meteorologist.

Know the NWS Products

One of the questions often asked of the NWS is the difference between a watch, warning and advisory. An advisory is issued when a hazard will be occurring and presents either a travel hazard, delay or an inconvenience to a person's daily routine. Examples of this are a Dense Fog Advisory, Wind Advisory or Flood Advisory. For an explanation of watches and warnings, see the graphic to the left.

For more information about the National Weather Service and how to prepare for severe weather visit the following links:

See the map below to find your local Warning Coordination Meteorologist. The image can also be accessed here: National Weather Service

Aaron Treadway
National Weather Service Austin/San Antonio

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