Tahlequah Daily Press

March 17, 2014

Tornado season just around the corner

By HEATHER WINN
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — It might be difficult for some Oklahomans to think about tornado season while dealing with below-freezing temperatures.

However, with springtime just around the corner, now is a great time to get prepared for turbulent spring weather. Whether you have lived in Oklahoma your entire life, or are new to the area, one thing is for certain – storm season must be taken seriously.

We all saw the devastation of the tornado outbreak Oklahoma experienced last May. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared ahead of time. The weather in our state can change quickly, so start thinking now about what you need to do to be safe.

If you have a storm shelter at your home, make sure it is cleaned out and ready to go before storm season. When the sirens are blaring is not the time to discover standing water, hordes of spiders or the space has been used for storage and there is no room for people.

If you discover water in your shelter, inspect it and determine how the water is getting in. Repair any cracks to help keep out moisture. If water is coming in through the door, homeowners will need to divert rainwater away from the entrance. Spiders and other creepy crawlies also get in through small cracks. Sealing those will help eliminate them.

Once the shelter is cleaned up and ready to be inhabited, prepare an emergency kit of essentials in the event you have to shelter in place for a while, or if your home is significantly damaged and no longer inhabitable, requiring you to live elsewhere for some time. Include things such as nonperishable foods, can opener, flashlights, extra batteries, a battery operated radio and a first aid kit.

Bottled water is essential, too. A good rule of thumb is about 1 gallon per person, per day. Also, make sure everyone is wearing shoes when you take cover in the shelter. Your feet will need to be protected in the event of storm damage when you emerge from the shelter.

Think about all of the daily needs, as well as the special needs your family may have. Families with babies and small children should pack diapers, formula and other child-related essentials. Older adults will have their own special needs that must be taken into consideration.

Make sure you have medications ready to take into the shelter. Because young children can become frightened during a storm, a special stuffed toy or blanket should be brought into the shelter.

A weather emergency is unnerving under any circumstances. If you’re prepared, knowing your family has what you need for a few days is just one less thing to worry about in the midst of all the chaos a storm can cause. Being prepared can help ensure there is less risk for injury and more of a guarantee that everyone will come out of the storm safe and sound.

For more information, or to schedule a program locally about financial management, nutrition, health and wellness, parenting education, or OHCE contact the OSU Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County by phone at (918) 456-6163 or email at heather.winn@okstate.edu.

Heather Winn is Extension educator, family and consumer sciences, for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service in Cherokee County.