West Virginia, Northeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia, and Southeast Ohio all experience a variety of summer weather conditions. This page contains information about severe weather terms, safety rules, and some tornado events that affected West Virginia. Everyone should heighten knowledge of the dangers of flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, and this page provides information to help you get prepared for severe weather before it occurs.
CHECK OUT THE ADVANCED HYDROLOGIC PREDICTION SERVICE (AHPS)
AHPS is a great tool to check out the latest in river flood information. Information on flood stage, flood impacts and any current flood warnings or statements is available for each station on the map. If you live or work near a river or stream, this page will be of great help to you! See www.weather.gov/ahp
Flood and Flash Flood Safety Tips:
Monitor NOAA All Hazards Radio or your favorite news source for vital weather information.
If flooding occurs, get to higher ground, away from areas subject to flooding.
Avoid areas already flooded and do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
Do not drive around barriers that warn you the road is flooded. Some cities and counties will issue a fine to motorists who ignore barriers!
Never drive through flooded roadways as road beds may be washed out under flood waters.
If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, if there is a threat of flooding. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.
According to FEMA:
The average annual U.S. flood losses from 1996-2005 was more than $2.4 billion.
Hurricanes, winter storms and snow melt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
On June 19, 2008, eighteen counties in West Virginia received a FEMA Disaster Declaration for severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, mudslides and landslides.
Critical NWS Flood Products
Hazardous Weather Outlook- This product alerts the public when flood producing rainfall is expected in 36 to 72 hours or if any severe weather threat is expected. During the months of February and March, this product also contains information on the potential for flooding from the spring snow melt.
Flood Watch- A flood or flash flood watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding or flash flooding to develop.
Flash Flood Warning- These warnings are issued when rapid flooding is imminent. Flash floods quickly develop within six hours of a heavy rainfall event.
Flood Warning- These warnings are issued when rivers, streams, or creeks are flooding, or there is inundation in an area that threatens life and property. River flooding mostly occurs with longer periods of rain which result in slower rises in flood waters and a prolonged flood event.
In West Virginia, over 60% of flood fatalities, and the #1 cause of weather related fatalities, is due to people driving through flooded roadways and low water crossings. Why do vehicles float? They float for the same reason a 97,000 ton aircraft carrier floats, buoyancy! Where does this idea that "my heavy vehicle will keep me safe" come from? It comes from the false trust in the weight of the vehicle you are driving.
Many believe their 3,000 pound or more vehicle will remain in contact with the road surface, that it is too heavy to float. Think about that for a moment. Aircraft carriers weighing 97,000 tons float. Vehicles, including ships, float because of buoyancy. In fact, most cars can be swept away in 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUVs do not fare much better with an additional 6-12 inches of clearance.
Are you ready for a flash flood?
Know what to expect
Know your area's flood risk--if unsure, call your local Red Cross chapter, emergency management office, or planning and zoning department.
If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
Listen to local radio or TV stations for flood information.
Reduce potential flood damage by--
Raising your furnace, water heater, and electric panel if they are in areas of your home that may be flooded.
Consult with a professional for further information if this and other damage reductions measures can be taken.
Floods can take several hours to days to develop--
A flood WATCH means a flood is possible in your area.
A flood WARNING means flooding is occurring or will occur soon in your area.
Flash floods can take only a few minutes to a few hour to develop--
A flash flood WATCH means flash flooding is possible in your area.
A flash flood WARNING means a flash flood is occurring or will occur very soon.
Prepare a Family Disaster Plan
Check to see if you have insurance that covers flooding. If not, find out how to get insurance.
Keep insurance policies, documents, and other valuables in a safe-deposit box.
Assemble a disaster supplies kit containing--
First aid kit and essential medications
Canned food and can opener.
At least three gallons of water per person
Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
Battery powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
Written instructions for how to turn off electricity, gas, and water if authorities advise you to do so. ( Remember, you'll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on)
Identify where you could go if told to evacuate. Choose several places...a friends home in another town, a motel, or a shelter
When a flood WATCH is issued--
Move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
Fill your car's gas tank in case an evacuation notice is issued.
When a flood WARNING is issued-
Listen to local radio and TV stations for information and advice. If told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.
When a flash flood WATCH is issued--
Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moments notice.
When a flash flood WARNING is issued--
...Or if you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
Move to higher ground aways from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not drive around barricades. They are there for your safety.
If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground...
The average forward speed it 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph...
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year in any locations...
In home or small buildings:
Go to the basement (if available) or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris.
In schools, hospitals, factories, or shopping centers:
Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head.
In high-rise buildings:
Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.
In cars and mobile homes:
ABANDON THEM IMMEDIATELY!! Most deaths occur in cars and mobile homes. If you are in either of these locations, leave it and go to a substantial structure or a designated tornado shelter.
If no suitable structure is nearby:
Lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head.
All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous.
Lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes.
Lightning often strikes as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
Many deaths from lightning occur ahead of the storm because people try and wait to the last minute before seeking shelter.
You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder.
If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough that it could strike your location at any moment.
Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death.
On average, 10% of strike victims die; 70% of survivors suffer serious long term effects.
Blue Skies and Lightning - Lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles. Even when the sky looks blue and clear, be cautious. If you hear thunder, take cover. At least 10% of lightning occurs without visible clouds overhead in the sky.
There is NO safe place to be outside in a thunderstorm.
If you can't get into a fully enclosed building or vehicle, do not seek shelter under trees or partially open structures. Sitting or crouching on the ground is NOT safe and should be your last resort.
Avoid leaning against vehicles. Get off bicycles and motorcycles. Avoid metal! Don't hold on to metal items such golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools.
Get out of the water. It's a great conductor of electricity. Don't stand in puddles of water, even if wearing rubber boots.
Move away from a group of people. Stay several yards away from other people. Don't share a bleacher bench or huddle in a group.
Severe Weather Terms and Definitions
Warning - a particular weather hazard is either imminent or has been reported. A warning indicates the need to take immediate action
to protect life and property. The type of hazard is reflected in the type of warning (e.g., tornado warning, blizzard warning).
Watch- a particular hazard is possible, or when conditions support its occurrence. A watch is a recommendation for planning preparation, and increased awareness (i.e., to be alert for changing weather, listen for further information, and think about what to do if the danger materializes).
Tornado- A violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground and extending from the base of a thunderstorm.
Severe Thunderstorm- A thunderstorm that produces tornadoes, hail 0.75 inches or more in diameter, or winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or more.
Straight-line Winds- Generally, any wind that is not associated with rotation, used mainly to differentiate them from tornadic winds.
Flood- The condition that occurs when water overflows the natural or artificial confines of a stream or other body of water, or accumulates by drainage over low-lying areas.
Flash Flood- A flood that rises and falls quite rapidly, usually as the result of intense rainfall over a relatively small area. Usually it occurs within 6 hours of a rain event.
Slight Risk (of severe thunderstorms)- Implies well-organized severe thunderstorms are expected, but in small numbers and/or low coverage.
Moderate Risk (of severe thunderstorms)- Indicates a potential for a greater concentration of severe thunderstorms than the slight risk, and in most situations, greater magnitude of the severe weather.
High Risk (of severe thunderstorms)- Suggests a major severe weather outbreak is expected, with a high concentration of severe weather reports and an enhanced likelihood of extreme severe (i.e., violent tornadoes or very damaging convective wind events occurring across a large area).
Supercell- A thunderstorm with a persistent rotating updraft. Supercells are rare, but are responsible for a remarkably high percentage of severe weather events - especially tornadoes, extremely large hail and damaging straight-line winds.
Squall Line- A solid or nearly solid line or band of active thunderstorms.
Downburst- A strong downdraft resulting in an outward burst of damaging winds on or near the ground. Downburst winds can produce damage similar to a strong tornado. Although usually associated with thunderstorms, downbursts can occur with showers too weak to produce thunder.
Funnel Cloud- A condensation funnel extending from the base of a towering cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud, associated with a rotating column of air that is not in contact with the ground (and hence different from a tornado). A condensation funnel is a tornado, not
a funnel cloud, if either a) it is in contact with the ground or b) a debris cloud or
dust whirl is visible beneath it.
Cold-air Funnel- A funnel cloud that can develop from a small shower or thunderstorm when the air aloft is unusually cold (hence the name). On rare occasions, small, relatively weak tornadoes can occur. These weak tornadoes last only a few minutes and are generally much less violent than other types of tornadoes.