Good morning, Foothills Weather Nation! I hope everyone is getting themselves prepared for our severe weather today. This morning the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center upgraded our threat from slight risk (2 of 5) to an enhanced risk (3 of 5). If you live East if I-77 though your area has been upgraded to a moderate risk (4 of 5).
It's easy to get spooked by color gradients and think the worst, so let's dive into what some of these categories mean. As you can see from the graphic below with moderate risk we can expect to see widespread storms and, therefore, impacts not just across the Foothills but rather much on NC and part of SC as well.
We see the words "strong tornado" and "destructive hail" and those are certainly possibilities today and need to be respected, but let's take a look at the main severe weather threats we have predicted for our area as we move throughout our day today.
From looking at our image issued yesterday evening we can see that our main threats here are damaging winds and flash flooding starting as early at 10 am across the forecasting area. The storms today are a result of a very strong cold front moving into the area over the Appalachians, extending from Virginia down to Northern Florida so while our western counties (Burke, McDowell, Rutherford) are going to be seeing the impacts of this first, it's important to know that the timeline of threat potential actually encompasses the entire forecasting area (Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell, and Rutherford counties). We have been bumped up since last night from slight to moderate severe thunderstorm risk which we do believe expresses the increased possibilities of a tornado and hail compared to yesterday, and the timeline for the bulk of that threat will be in the afternoon hours between 2 and 6 pm.
We will be covering this severe weather event all day today so we implore that our followers keep your phones close to you today, keep checking in with us and listen out for all watches and warnings listed for your area.
Speaking of watches and warnings, local and well-known Meteorologist Brad Panovich shared a wonderful tweet and associated graphic a few days ago that we all love here at FWN showing the difference between a watch and a warning.
Whether it's a severe thunderstorm watch or a tornado watch, the idea is the same. A watch means we know we have all of the "ingredients" for that specific weather type to maybe happen at a later time. For Brad's example, it's all of the ingredients for a cupcake, but it's not a cupcake. A warning means that all of those ingredients were used and we officially have that specific weather event occurring for the area.
So what do you do to prepare yourselves for days like this where the timeline is so long and the span of possible threats is so broad? Let's go into some safety tips for how and what to plan and then what to do when it's time to act. This will cover some misconceptions as well.
What to do for your typical severe thunderstorm:
Try your best to stay indoors and stay off the roads. Severe thunderstorms come with damaging winds, lightning, flash flooding, and the potential for hail. Straight lined winds can be just as damaging as a tornado and often times can leave a path of destruction similar to one, but all without the funnel and necessary rotation to be a tornado. Staying indoors greatly reduces the risks as you can be protected from the elements. (For the record, standing in or under trees doesn't count as shelter.)
If you are driving and see a road ahead of you that has water that is standing or "slow moving" on it, do not take that risk! Turn around! Don't drown! For your average sedan you only need a solid inch of water that is moving quick enough to carry a car off the road. For trucks this could be as little as two inches. Standing water can be dangerous as it masks where the road ends, can be easily deceiving on it's depth, and doesn't let the driver know the road condition beneath the water's surface like if the road has developed a new pothole or if the road has crumbled away beneath. If you run into these situations, go back in the direction you came and try to find a place that you can take shelter whether it's your home or at a store until the weather gives.
Of course we can't all stay at home just because we run the risk of having severe weather- many of us have jobs, kids, and thus errands and the rest of life to live. When you know a weather active day is coming up, plan out your day.
Plan your day. Talk with your family and friends to discuss the day's plans. If you intend on going to work or school, what times do you intend to be there? Where can you keep safe? Are there alternate routes to navigate from place to place. Can any of your plans be moved to a different day? Prepare yourselves to be readily in communication with your family should anything come up for you or them. Charge up your cell phones, maybe bring a spare charger or battery pack with you.
Another helpful tip is to carry emergency cash with you during weather active days. The reasoning behind this is that things happen and you might need gas or food or whatever else and things like the internet and/or power being out would mean that your credit and debit cards will be rendered useless.
What do you do when there is a tornado watch?:
Keep up to date on the forecasted area. When will the watch end? Where is it for? Keep a closer eye out for a warning to be potentially issued even if it's towards the end of an issued watch. If you aren't in a safe place, be in one. If a tornado warning was issued for your area just that minute, could you get to a safer place to take shelter from the tornado?
It is a myth that tornadoes don't hit places that have trees around them. Tornadoes do not care.
It is a myth that tornadoes cannot happen at night. There is still plenty of energy and the tornadoes that hit are the most deadly because people stop paying attention because of nightly routines or are asleep. During the day we can rely on sight to tell if there is a tornado on the ground. At night this warning might be issued later than if it happened during the day because it is harder to confirm if the rotation we see on the radar is actually on the ground or not. Too many warnings and the public becomes desensitized and won't pay attention any more.
It is a myth that an overpass is a safe place to take shelter. Being under an overpass can funnel winds and allow for wind eddies to collect debris.
What do you do when there is a tornado warning?
No matter where you are, try to be in the lowest lying area no matter if you're in a house, in a store, or have the incredibly unfortunate circumstance in being outside.
Find the most interior room of your home that has minimal windows. This could be a bathroom or a closet. The idea is to get as much space between you and the storm. Flying debris can and will break windows and puncture through exterior walls and roofs
It is a myth that you should open your windows if you think a tornado will hit your home. It does not stop your windows from busting. If the pressure gradient is high enough to bust the windows it means the tornado is on top of your house and having your windows open means that debris and tornado strength winds can and will go into your home, potentially compromising the structural integrity of it.
This might seem silly, but try to keep something near your anticipated tornado shelter that you can use to wrap your body in and possibly keep a helmet there. Flying debris like sticks or glass can cut your skin as it flies around so wrapping yourself in a jacket or a blanket can help cover you. A helmet can protect you of course from any trauma you might take to your head.
If you find yourself in your closet try your best to not have heavy things that can fall onto you or crush you. Pantries have glass jars and metal cans that if you were to have a shelf collapse or fall onto you, then you could get injured.
If you find that your home or neighborhood has been impacted by a tornado or straight lined winds Do not panic if you cannot find your family, friends, or pets. I know that's easier said than done. If you panic, then you might not remember to take care of yourself and then you run the risk of getting too hurt to look for them or help them and then you need help as well. Make sure you have closed toe shoes on as debris like splintered wood, broken glass, and ripped up nails can mangle your feet. If you have cellphone service, send text messages to your family and not phone calls to not overwhelm the towers. Of course, 911 calls are excused here- especially if you know if someone is injured. Check on your neighbors. It's the right thing to do, y'all. Do not touch powerlines. Just because they are down or even ripped in half doesn't mean they aren't live and it can and will absolutely kill you. If you smell gas, get away from there. Common things people don't expect are for gas explosions or fires to happen, but a gas leak is incredibly dangerous.
Lastly, and importantly, stay out of the way of emergency vehicles!
We hope this has been a helpful guide for you and has answered all of your questions. Keep a regular, constant eye on the weather today. It could save you or your family's life!