North Alabama: Are You Storm Ready?


AlabamaStormChasersLogo(small)A lot of people are asking if the 2015 tornado season is going to be bad since we had a bad winter. While it is true that in the past some bad winters were followed by bad tornado seasons, it is equally true that past bad winters were followed by mild tornado seasons. Just because it was a bad winter in 2010/11 and it was followed by a bad 2011 tornado season doesn’t follow that a bad winter equals a bad tornado season. That is what is called confusing correlation with causation.

What is more important is being prepared for any severe weather threat, be it an average storm season or a more active season. It does no good to only be concerned about whether or not we will have 200 tornadoes in any given year, because it only takes a single storm, single flood, or a single tornado to destroy lives and property.

You need to be prepared for extended power outages. You need to be prepared for a loss of local store services (or ones operating on cash only). You need to be prepared to stay in your home or evacuate as the circumstances dictate.

So what do you need before a storm?

  1. Make sure you have non-perishable food items. During an extended power outage, your milk and eggs are not going to do you any good once they spoil.
  2. Make sure your car’s gas tank is full in case power is out for an extended period and gas stations are shut down. You should also fill your gas cans as well. If you do not use them, then you will have the gas to keep mowing your lawns.
  3. Make sure you have an alternative way to cook food (even if you have a gas stove, because utilities may have to shut gas down if there is a problem at the source or anywhere along the lines). A camp stove or grill are great ways to cook when the power is out. If you have a charcoal grill, make sure you have a few bags of charcoal ready to go. If you have a propane grill, make sure your tank is at least 1/2 full. If you have a camp stove, make sure you have enough mini-propane tanks.
  4. Make sure you have bottled water. A half case of water (per person in the household) at a minimum should be readily available.
  5. Make sure all your electronics are fully charged. Make sure you have a supply of batteries ready to go for battery-operated electronics, flashlights, LED lights, etc. If you lose power, only use your phone for emergencies to conserve battery life. Make sure you turn off your WiFi on your phone so it does not waste battery searching for a WiFi signal. If cell service goes down, put your phone on airplane mode (or turn it off) to conserve battery and check a few times a day to see if cell signal is back. If you have an inverter for your car, that is great, but remember to start your engine and run it for a few minutes while you are using the inverter. Inverters can drain batteries quickly, especially older batteries or batteries that have been jump-started before. Keep in mind that using the inverter, and thus running the engine, is using your gas, so be mindful of how much you use it.
  6. Keep flashlights or lanterns nearby and ready to go. Make sure you have lighters/matches to light any candles or kerosene/propane lanterns you have. Make sure lighters and matches are in an easy-to-find place so you are not digging for them in the dark.
  7. You should already have a NOAA Weather Radio. If you do not have one, do yourself and your family a favor and spend the extra money next payday to buy one. The NOAA Weather Radio is an invaluable asset, especially if you cannot hear tornado sirens where you live, sirens do not wake you up when you are sleeping, or the power goes out so you cannot get Internet or TV news. The NOAA Weather Radio can SAVE YOUR LIFE!
  8. Make sure any prescription medication is easily accessible so you are not fumbling in the dark trying to find your pills. If you are running low on one and it is ready for a refill, take care of that now: not the day the storm is supposed to be on top of you.
  9. Your house should already have a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher in it. Make sure everyone knows where those are at and they are easily accessible in the dark.
  10. Do not forget about your pets: take them into account when figuring out how much bottled water you should have and make sure they have enough dog food to last for extended period with no stores being open.
  11. Talk to everyone in your household about safety and evacuation plans. Where are the safe places to hunker down within your house to ride out a storm? Where is a safe place to meet if you are separated during a storm event, evacuation, etc? If you must evacuate or leave your house because of damage, where is the nearest public evacuation center or storm shelter? Have a practice drill now and then (at least twice a year) to make sure everyone is familiar with the plan and can execute it properly.
  12. Have a “bug-out bag” ready to go. This doesn’t mean you need a prepper bag full of seeds and ammunition. It means you need the basics ready to go in case something happens (like a tree falling on your house, a lightning strike causing a house fire, or a tornado damaging your home). The bag should include things like underwear, change of clothes, toiletries, baby diapers, etc. One thing people often forget is important paperwork. Scan your important documents and put them on a small flash drive (or CD-R) that can go in your bag (marriage license/certificate, mortgage, insurance paperwork (auto, car & life), birth certificates, etc). This should be in your room where you can grab it quickly as you escape your house. Your bag should also contain some cash because an extended power outage means no credit card readers are going to be working.
  13. Make sure your ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts are updated in your phone.
  14. Stay calm. Don’t panic. Panic leads to bad decision making. Be aware of your surroundings.

Best wishes, as always,

Catching Up: 20110427 Alabama Tornadoes

Continuing the catching up series of old photos. Click on any photo to see the full size image.

April 27, 2011 is a date everyone in Alabama remembers. Alabama was ravaged by tornadoes. I ended up being a couple of blocks away from one of the tornadoes that hit north of Huntsville. I was able to capture some of the damage done to the area after the tornado went through. I’ll also post a link to the video I made that day where I tried to capture the video. Unfortunately it was rain-wrapped and not visible in the video, but the winds were powerful enough to almost knock me down the sidewalk, forcing me to take cover behind a brick pillar. We spent the next two weeks in darkness, living in the garage with a camp stove and using the car to charge our cell phones.

When the second wave came through, we sat in the car and video-taped the amazing lightning. Some of the pictures are stills from the video (I’ve since upgraded to a much better video camera, so I apologize for the crappy quality of the video stills).

Video from that day:

20110427 Tornadoes & Lightning:

Lightning06 Lightning07 Lightning09 Lightning10
LightningFeeler LightningFeeler2 DSCF2072
DSCF2078 DSCF2080 DSCF2081 DSCF2082 DSCF2083 DSCF2084 DSCF2085 DSCF2087 DSCF2088 DSCF2089 DSCF2090 DSCF2091 DSCF2092 DSCF2095 DSCF2103 DSCF2104 DSCF2106 DSCF2111 DSCF2115 DSCF2116 FunnelCloud Lightning03 Lightning05

BWAHAHA: 5/31 – 6/6

BWAHAHA (Blair’s Week Attempts at Haha’s) 5/31 – 6/6: I’m trying a new format this week to see how I like it. Instead of listing everything by the day I posted it, I’m combining all the captioned pictures, twitter jokes, and “other” into separate categories. Let’s see how this looks and goes. I’m digging the captioning already instead of the words above the pictures.

I participated in the Alright Bayou Comedy Show on 6/6 and had a great time. Thanks to comedians Matthew Tate and Nate Bailie for the invite and hosting. For more information about shows, open mics, and other comedy stuff in the Huntsville area, check out!

OTHER STUFF (Yeah, OTHER goes before everything else)

Check out my new article on the Rocket-Wrangler, Area Storm Chasers Disappointed by Severe Weather Season

The newest episode of The Critical Eye Podcast, with guest comedian Ian Harris, is now available in the archive. E044: Republicans, Racists, and Teabaggers; Oh My!


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Another friendly reminder to be aware of your surroundings.