Are you ready for tornado season?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ask anyone who has lived in Alabama for any length of time, and they will tell you this part of the country receives some of the world's most fascinating weather.

The soaring heat of Summer transitions into winter's deep freeze.

But in between those two seasons, Mother Nature plays mediator between Old Man Winter and those dog days of Summer, and when those two clash, Alabama's skies can turn violent.

That is why this week everyone should review or develop a safety action plan just in case severe weather blows your way.

After all, it is not a question of "if" another tornado will strike - but "when."

All this week, the National Weather Service, in conjunction with local Emergency Management Agencies and the Alabama Red Cross, is working to better prepare you for severe weather.

Governor Bob Riley declared this week as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Alabama.

It is the perfect time to educate yourself on severe weather and learn what to do in the event severe weather moves into your area.

Alabama's history is full of violent tornadoes and we do not have to look too far when understanding exactly how turbulent Mother Nature's wrath can be.

In April 1969, a deadly tornado, ranked an F-4 on the Fujita Scale, cut a path of destruction from Greenville to Panola where two people died.

Crenshaw County's worst tornado disaster, however, occurred back in 1925.

Eighteen people perished in a tornado that stretched from Luverne, to Troy, to Comer.

But a lot has changed since those years, in both severe weather forecasting and severe weather preparedness.

Just last November, a powerful tornado struck in Autauga County. Trees and power lines were downed, boats and campers were overturned, and trailer homes were left twisted into a pile of rubbish.

Astoundingly, no one died in the tornado and only three injuries occurred.

A lot can be said for that fact.

History shows us that most people can save their lives if they know a tornado is coming.

Unlike the old days, people now have been immediate access to weather coverage through television and other media outlets.

Through the years, most people have become well versed in what actions to take during severe weather.

School administrators also take severe weather warnings very seriously, and by the time youngsters are in elementary school, they already know what steps to take inside their school building when a tornado warning is issued.

This week, school children in Butler, Crenshaw, and Lowndes Counties participated in the statewide tornado drill.

The drill allows school administrators to ensure

they have a way of receiving warnings, and then making sure every student knows what to do and where to go during an actual severe weather emergency.

Businesses should also use today to orient workers on severe weather procedures at the office.

Families should

review tornado procedures at home.

Remember, every home, school, business, and church should have a way of receiving critical weather bulletins and then knowing what to do once the warning has been issued.

The WAKA-TV CBS 8 First Alert Weather Team recommends that every family in Alabama have a NOAA weather radio.

These gadgets can be purchased at local electronics stores and range from $30 to $65.

Your family will want to invest in a radio that is battery powered with an alarm device.

This is especially important to have in Alabama since we oftentimes have nighttime stores.

The radio's alarm can wake you up in the middle of the night while you are asleep.

So, as meteorologists gear up for severe weather season, their efforts will be in vain unless you have your own severe weather safety plan.

Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can strike quickly, and sometimes seconds is all the time you have to move to safety.

You can not stop a disaster from happening, but you can better prepare yourself and each member of your family for the looming severe weather season.

Tornadoes are most frequent during the spring months of March, April, and May and during the fall season in November.

Since 1950, twenty tornadoes have struck in Butler County, fifteen have hit Crenshaw County, and eleven have touched down in Lowndes County.

Severe weather is a part of life in Alabama.

Do not be caught off guard this spring!

(David Baxley is a meteorologist with WAKA-TV CBS 8 in Montgomery.

For more information, you may reach him at 334-420-3253 or dbaxley@wakacom.)