Helping people in Alabama be prepared to survive the dangers of severe weather is the focus of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Alabama.
Gov. Kay Ivey, the National Weather Service offices that serve Alabama, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and other supporting organizations have declared the week of Feb. 16-21 as Severe Weather Awareness Week. The goal is to encourage Alabamians to educate themselves about the dangers of severe weather and obtain the supplies and information needed to reduce their risk of harm.
John De Block, meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, said advance planning and increased awareness will help people prepare for potentially deadly storms, which tend to occur more frequently in Alabama during spring.
“Our severe weather season really is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31,” De Block said. “Severe weather can happen at any time, but we just want to focus our attention right now for that peak season of March, April and May, so that everyone is ready for it and we can come out better on the other side.”
For your severe weather preparedness plan to be successful, weather forecasters say you must:
- Have at least two reliable methods of receiving emergency information, such as a weather alert app on your smartphone and a NOAA weather radio.
- Understand terminology, such as the difference between a watch and a warning.
- Know how and where to protect yourself when severe weather strikes.
- Know what to do if severe weather hurts you or causes damage to your property.
“The main thing is to make sure all your means of communication coming in to you are up to speed,” De Block said. “You’ve got your apps updated, fresh batteries in that weather radio, whatever communications you’re going to rely on, make sure those are ready to go.”
De Block says you should make sure your shelter and safety supplies, such as helmets, flashlights and water, are easily accessible, as well as sturdy shoes or boots and gloves to wear in the event severe weather damages your home.
“Make sure they are ready to go because this is the season that we’re going to need them,” De Block said.
Emergency managers recommend keeping a first aid kit in your storm shelter. If fallen trees cause damage to nearby powerlines, avoid them and call 911.
“We work very hard to design our system using the latest technology to keep the power on as much as possible,” said Justin Harrison, an engineering supervisor for Alabama Power. “However, when severe weather does occur, we’re very passionate about getting out there as quickly and as safely as we can to restore power to our customers.”
To encourage you to stock emergency supplies, the state of Alabama will hold its ninth annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday Feb. 21-23. Starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday and ending at midnight Sunday, shoppers in Alabama can purchase certain severe weather preparedness items free of state sales tax. The list includes a variety of batteries, cellphone chargers, flashlights and first-aid kits. A complete list can be viewed here.