Severe Weather Awareness Week: March 4–8

Severe Weather Awareness Week: March 4–8
Posted on 02/29/2024
lightning in outdoor stormy dark sky

Early spring, before the worst storms typically arrive in our region, is a great time for a weather refresher. For even storm-seasoned Midwesterners, thinking in advance about what you’d do an emergency will help you act with confidence and efficiency in a dangerous weather event.  

Even when the tornado risk is low, lightning, hail, flooding and high winds are all serious threats to you, your family and your property. Take a few minutes to brush up on the actions you should take during any thunderstorm.

The basics: watch vs. warning

A watch means there are weather conditions in the area that could produce a tornado or severe thunderstorm. 

A warning means that a severe storm or tornado has been spotted or indicated on radar. 

If there is a warning, take shelter immediately!

Staying informed

Always keep an eye on the weather forecast so bad weather doesn’t catch you by surprise. The National Weather Service displays watches, warnings and forecasts.

Be especially vigilant during a watch. Warning sirens are primarily designed to alert people who are outdoors. All homes and workplaces should have an NOAA-approved weather radio to alert occupants to weather emergencies.

Outdoor activities

If you have outdoor activities planned and thunderstorms are in the forecast, consider postponing your plans or make sure there’s a proper shelter nearby. 

Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. You need to seek an enclosed shelter. These include homes, offices, shops and hard-top vehicles with the windows rolled up. Open structures (porches, gazebos and baseball dugouts) and open vehicles (convertible, motorcycle or golf cart) are not safe places to shelter.

If tornadoes or damaging winds are a threat, make sure you’ll have access to a storm shelter, basement or inside room without windows. If there is no shelter nearby, plan to lie flat in a ditch or culvert and shield your head with your hands.

Safer indoors

You’re more protected inside — but not 100% safe. About one-third of lightning-strike injuries happen indoors, for example.

Lightning can travel through plumbing (even plastic pipes), phone lines and electrical systems. Avoid running water, landline phones and electronic equipment that’s plugged into the wall. It’s OK to use a cordless or cell phone. You can also protect your appliances and electronics with whole-house surge protectors.

Lightning can also travel through metal wires or bars in concrete walls and flooring, so stay away from these areas in a storm.
In a severe storm, stay away from windows! Strong winds or hail can break the glass and cause severe injuries.

Flood precautions

Like many other weather hazards, flash floods can develop quickly. When heavy rain is in the forecast, be aware of flood watches and warnings. A Flood Watch means flooding is possible. A Flood Warning means flooding is happening or flooding is imminent.

Think about how you would evacuate from your home if it flooded. Plan alternate routes you could take on your commute, trip to the grocery store or drive to school if your usual routes flood. Keep in mind that bridges over fast-moving water can be dangerous in a flood.

More than half of all flood-related deaths occur in vehicles. If barriers are up around a flooded area, don’t try to drive around them. 

Never try to walk, swim or drive through floodwater. Even shallow floodwater can be deceptively powerful. Just 6 inches of water can knock over a person, and one foot of moving water can carry away a vehicle.

Helpful resources has a robust library of preparedness tips for a variety of emergencies. This includes checklists to prepare an emergency kit that meets your household’s needs. offers many flood preparedness resources. is the official National Weather Service website, where you’ll find information about active watches and warnings.

Sign up to receive time-sensitive emergency alerts at Johnson County’s free mass notification system can send you alerts via voice, email or text message.

Published Feb. 29, 2024