Warm season is storm season
Winter in Charles County, and across much of the Mid-Atlantic, was a strange one this year. We donned our shorts at Christmas and endured a blizzard in the weeks that followed. With temperatures often fluctuating dramatically from week to week, and occasionally from day to day, deciding how to dress on a given morning sometimes posed a challenge.
Chalk it up to climate change or just a wacky season, but forecasters seem to believe the winter blues are finally over (aside from the cold blast we are experiencing this week), and with the Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms continuing to bloom and attract visitors from far and wide, spring has officially arrived — and with it, the start of a new season of potentially extreme weather.
The Charles County Government issued a press release last week, asking residents to prepare for the high winds, heavy rains, lightning, hail and formation of tornadoes that can sometimes strike the region during warmer months. Tornadoes can produce wind speeds greater than 250 mph, stretch up to a mile wide and stay on the ground for up to 50 miles, according to a county press release.
Here are some tips the county advises residents take before a tornado develops:
• Pick a place where family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered.
• If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
• Be familiar with the various types of watches and warnings issued for severe weather. These include “severe thunderstorm watch,” “severe thunderstorm warning,” “tornado watch” and “tornado warning,” the last of which means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
If a tornado warning is issued — meaning conditions are favorable for a tornado to form — residents are urged to take shelter immediately, either underground or, if that’s not an option, in an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, beneath a sturdy piece of furniture. Stay away from windows. Abandon mobile homes, as they offer little protection, and don’t get in the car. If you’re driving, the release states, don’t try to outrun a tornado; instead, seek sturdy shelter, or leave the vehicle and lay in a ditch or depression with your hands covering your head. Do not get under an overpass or bridge.
Severe weather notices are posted on the Charles County Government website (http://www.charlescountymd.gov/), on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CharlesCounty), and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CharlesCoMD). Weather updates are also aired on CCGTV, which broadcasts on Comcast channel 95 and Verizon channel 10. Sign up for the Citizen Notification System (http://www.charlescountymd.gov/CNS) to receive inclement weather and traffic alerts by text message, email, or phone. For information on power outages, view the SMECO outage map (http://stormcenter.smeco.coop/external/default.html). Call 877-747-6326 to report a power outage. Call 911 in the event of an emergency.
So while you’re basking in the fresh spring air and sunshine, and counting down the days to this year’s annual summer vacation, remember to be weather conscious and enjoy the warm season safely.