Storms Threaten to Unleash Strong Winds, Flooding, Tornadoes

Thunderstorm
If flash flooding occurs, head to higher ground and stay there.

Severe weather continues to threaten the eastern half of the country, with strong storms forecast from the Midwest across the country to the East Coast. The American Red Cross has steps people can take to help stay safe if dangerous storms threaten their neighborhood.

Overnight there were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Indiana and Tennessee, damaging homes and leaving thousands without power. In Tennessee, a possible tornado damaged buildings, affecting about 24 families across seven counties. The Red Cross opened a shelter to offer them refuge from the storm and will be out in the affected area today assessing the damage.

The same storm system is moving into the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, bringing heavy rainfall, possible straight-line winds and even a chance of tornadoes. At least two inches of rain is possible in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania and much of the area is under a flash-flood warning.

FLASH FLOODING Flash floods occur suddenly when water rises rapidly along a stream or low-lying area. A flash flood watch means flooding is possible in your area. A warning means flooding is already occurring or will occur soon. If your neighborhood is threatened with flooding you should:

  • Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
  • When a flash flood warning is issued for your area, head to higher ground and stay there.
  • Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
  • Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  • If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  • Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
  • THUNDERSTORMS If someone can hear thunder, they are close enough for lightning to be a threat. If thunder roars, go indoors and stay inside for at least 30 minutes after the thunder stops.

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
  • Avoid using electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • If someone is driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If outside and unable to reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.
  • TORNADO SAFETY A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in the area. People should be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or someone suspects a tornado is approaching. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar. People should immediately go underground to a basement, storm cellar or interior room of the house.

    Some signs of a tornado include dark, often greenish clouds, a wall of clouds or cloud of debris, large hail, a funnel cloud or roaring noise. Steps people should remember if a tornado warning is issued include:

  • Go to an underground shelter or safe room if available. A hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is also a safe alternative.
  • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or vehicle, get out of the mobile home immediately and go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
  • If you can’t walk to a shelter quickly, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If debris is flying while you are driving, pull over and park. You can stay in the car with the seat belt on, putting your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  • Or, if you can get safely to an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, get out of the car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.
  • More information on what to do before, during and after all types of emergencies is available in the Preparedness section of redcross.org.

    About the American Red Cross:
    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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