Hazards of severe Kansas weather

During the last three years, Kansas has experienced tornadoes in October. Tornadoes are not typically associated with this time of year, but Kansas weather is crazy!  Storms and the hazards that accompany them can cause crucial damage to our land, our home, our belongings and even ourselves. It is never too early (or too late) to brush up on how to approach storms in Kansas.

Thunderstorm

  • What is it? A rain storm in which you hear thunder. It will always have lightning, though the lightning may not be visible.
    • A severe thunderstorm contains hail that is one-inch or greater in diameter, winds in excess of 57.5 mph and/or a tornado.
  • When do they occur? Usually during the spring and summer, and more than likely in late afternoon or evenings. However, they can occur at any time.
  • What are the different types of thunderstorms? There are several different types of thunderstorms, each having a different severity level and time length. Thunderstorms have varying amounts of rain, wind, lightning, hail, tornadoes and flooding. They can last from less than an hour to up to 12 hours.
  • How to react to a watch versus a warning. A watch means that the conditions are favorable for a thunderstorm to occur. A warning means that severe weather has been located via radar or by spotters; the path of the storm is threatening and shelter should be taken.
  • What is most at risk? Cars, homes and people that are outdoors.

Tornado

Photo From: History.com

  • What is it? A rapidly rotating column of air. The invisible column remains clear until water, dirt or debris have been picked up.
  • When can they occur? Most likely from May to July and between 4 and 9 p.m. However, they can occur at any point in time.
  • How to react to a watch versus a warning. A watch shows conditions that are favorable for producing a tornado. A warning means a tornado has been spotted.
  • Where to go during a tornado? You should go to the lowest point possible in a house, or a room with no windows. If you get caught outside, try to seek indoor shelter. If stuck outside, lay in a ditch.

Flood

  • What is it? An overflow of water onto normally dry land. It can range from inches to feet of extra water. Floods are the most common types of natural disasters!
  • When do they occur? They occur after heavy rains, large ocean waves come ashore, rapid snow melts and the breaking of dams. The duration can be quick or last for an extended period of time.
  • Where do floods occur? Near bodies of water, mountains, dams and low spots.
  • What is a flash flood? Water that overflows with excessive speed and unpredictability onto normally dry land.

Lightning

Photo From: ChrisKridler.com

  • What is it? Spark of electricity in the atmosphere. It can occur between the clouds, air and ground.
  • When does it occur? It can occur in nearly any disaster—forest fires, volcanic eruptions, snowstorms, hurricanes, nuclear detonations and thunderstorms.
  • What does lightning strike? It can strike anything! However, tall objects, such as trees, mountains and buildings are often hit.
  • It is crucial to stay inside when lightening occurs, as it can cause serious bodily harm and even death.

Hail

  • What is it? Precipitation that has frozen and arrives on the surface as ice.
  • When does it occur? Typically arrives during a thunderstorm.
  • How big can hail get? It can vary from pea size to softball size. Typically, a mixture of different sizes occurs.
  • Hail storms most notably occur in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming, though they can occur anywhere.

Wind

  • How is it different from a tornado? It’s often deemed straight-line wind to differentiate it from a tornado. Damaging winds are those that exceed 50 to 60 mph.
  • When does it occur? Best known to occur during thunderstorms.
  • Where are they most likely? Anywhere that is at risk of thunderstorms is at risk of damaging winds.
  • People in mobile homes are especially at risk of suffering from wind damage.

Winter Weather

Photo From: ButtonwoodArtSpace.com

  • What is it? It is usually snow, sleet, ice or freezing rain that can be accompanied by low temperatures and strong winds.
  • When does it occur? During the winter months when the temperature is colder.
  • What are most injuries and deaths related to? Traffic accidents, heart attacks while shoveling snow and hypothermia.
  • What is a blizzard? Rapid snowfall with piercing winds; it can last up to several days.
  • What is at risk? People (both in buildings and on the road), cars and electrical lines.

Thunderstorm information was gathered from the National Weather Service (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/resources/ttl6-10.pdf) and  storm hazard information was gathered from the National Severe Storms Laboratory (http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/tornadoes/) .