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Wentzville FPD News & Fire Safety Tips

Spring Blooms with Severe Weather: Emergency Weather Tips to Prepare for Tornadoes, Flooding and Storms

A massive wall cloud threatens the area with rain and severe weather.

St. Louis experiences severe weather year-round; the unpredictable weather patterns in the state mean that residents battle heavy snow, ice, extreme cold, and extreme heat (for summer)—spring ushers in showers, thunderstorms, and severe storms (including tornadoes). 

St. Charles County heard the sirens that marked the first tornado warning of the season; the sudden arrival of severe weather meant that some residents did not have time to prepare. Learn when to do when severe weather strikes again; the Wentzville Fire Protection District highlights tips to stay safe during severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flooding. 

Table of Contents:

Severe Storms: The Danger of Thunderstorms

  • What Should You Do if Caught in Severe Storm Conditions?

  • Doppler Radar: Tracking Storms for Public Safety

Tornado Myths and Facts

  • How Do Tornadoes Form?

  • Does Missouri Have a Tornado Tracker?

  • Debunking Tornado Myths

Facts About Floods

  • Don't Ignore a Flash Flood Warning

Key Takeaways:

Spring is the prime season for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Prepare now for inclement weather and know what to do when dangerous storms hit the area.

Severe Storms: The Danger of Thunderstorms

Most spring rain showers in Missouri dissipate quickly, causing little cause for concern and perhaps even leaving behind a rainbow. Unfortunately, spring is also the peak season for severe thunderstorms, and these violent storms can cause damage, destruction, and injuries.

Severe thunderstorms are accompanied by lightning, heavy rain, strong winds, and sometimes hail. The hail size varies, but many in Missouri have witnessed golfball-sized hail and even baseball hail pellets. Hail leads to damage to cars and roofs. Winds threaten roof structures, and strong winds can bend and break weak trees. 

What Should You Do if Caught in Severe Storm Conditions?

When severe storms hit, stay indoors when possible. Always keep away from windows, as heavy wind can lead to trees or other debris smashing window panes. 

Sometimes, a severe storm hits quickly. What should you do if caught in severe conditions and on the road? Follow these tips to stay safe when driving in severe thunderstorms:

  1. Turn on your headlights. Keep beams on low.

  2. Activate your windshield wipers at a speed that ensures optimal visibility.

  3. Increase the driving distance between other vehicles. Watch their tail lights to aid navigation in heavy rain.

  4. Slow down. Braking is more difficult when roads are wet and slick. Slow the speed!

  5. Pull over if heavy hail or rain makes driving unsafe. If you pull to the shoulder, turn on your emergency flashers so other cars see you. 

  6. If you stop and start to slide, always navigate into the slide. Then, adjust to the proper direction.

If they become stranded, drivers should always keep an emergency kit in their car. These kits should include a rain poncho, jumper cables, a flashlight (and batteries), a first aid kit, extra blankets, and boots. A cell phone charger/cable also should be kept in each vehicle at all times. 

Doppler Radar: Tracking Storms for Public Safety

Doppler radar is used by meteorologists to track storms. This weather radar enables the NWS to see the path of a storm and provide notification to the public, increasing safety and minimizing injuries. 

Radar shows dangerous storm rotation and can indicate when a severe thunderstorm transforms into a tornado. While Doppler radar has increased the understanding of a storm's behavior, it isn't always error-free.

While meteorologists make every effort to alert the public promptly about dangerous storms and violent tornadoes, some storms take even the experts by surprise. When the Joplin F5 tornado touched down, many residents were not prepared. While a tornado warning was issued about 17 minutes before the tornado reached Joplin, the rain-shrouded tornado didn't appear like the standard funnel

The Joplin tornado also revealed the importance of basement and underground storm cellars. Those who took shelter underground in a basement survived the tornado.

Severe weather in St. Louis can lead to the development of tornadoes.

Tornado Myths and Facts

What meteorologists know about tracking storms helps to protect lives and property. However, it's crucial for the public to understand tornado facts from the myths. Some tornado advice is inaccurate and, ultimately, dangerous. 

Here's what to know about tornadoes, how they form, tracking these storms, and the clouds that denote a tornado.

How Do Tornadoes Form?

The National Weather Service explains that while all thunderstorms could potentially produce a tornado, supercell storms are the likeliest to generate the conditions and volatility necessary for these violent storms. 

NWS explains that a tornado requires specific elements to form. When warm air near the ground mixes with cool and dry air, it creates an updraft. Another element is wind shear, which accelerates wind speed and influences rotation. The Joplin tornado formed and strengthened as storms merged. 

Does Missouri Have a Tornado Tracker?

Doppler radar tracks all weather patterns, including storms that develop into tornadoes. In addition, the site Tornado HQ tracks every tornado across the U.S. In 2024, no tornadoes have been reported. The public can visit this site and stay up-to-date on tornadoes in their area and beyond. The App Store and Google Play also offer apps to track weather conditions and storms. 

Debunking Tornado Myths

The fury, formation, and power of tornadoes have piqued the interest of storm chasers and the public. Unfortunately, these storms also have become the source of many myths, some of which could put the public at risk. 

Learn the truth about these five common tornado myths:

Myth 1: Hilly regions are safe from tornadoes.

Any area can still be devastated by a tornado. 

Myth 2: Seek shelter beneath an overpass when a tornado hits along a highway.

The National Weather Service advises against sheltering beneath an overpass because the tornado's power could collapse the bridge; the NWS notes that debris could also fly beneath the overpass and lead to injuries. 

Myth 3: Open windows to decrease the pressure during a tornado.

The NWS states that there is no benefit to opening windows. The NWS explains that it could waste time and lead to injuries. 

Myth 4: Tornadoes only occur in spring.

The weather conditions determine the risk of a tornado; these conditions could occur in any month of the year. Missouri has experienced tornadoes in December!

Myth 5: Tornadoes are always visible.

Unfortunately, tornadoes can be wrapped in rain, which hides their appearance. Dark skies also can camouflage a tornado.

Missouri Floods

Heavy spring rains can lead to flooding. The St. Louis region has experienced multiple floods in the past decade, some devastating homes and businesses. The Flood of 1993 was the worst flood in Missouri history (damages were more than $15 billion). 

Pay attention to weather forecasts related to both flood and flash flood warnings. The Missouri Department of Transportation offers an app that shows streets and highways closed because of flooding; download the app to ensure safe navigation. 

Don't Ignore a Flash Flood Warning

The National Weather Service offices in the region issue flash flood warnings. The public needs to heed these warnings. Attempting to drive through flooded areas can lead to serious damage to a vehicle, and flash flooding could be so powerful that cars are carried away. Even when the water looks navigable, assume it isn't. Do not drive through moving water.

According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety State Emergency Management Agency, flash flooding is responsible for 140 fatalities annually across the U.S.!

Prepare for Severe Weather Now

As the St. Charles region experienced its first tornado warning of the season, the public must take heed and prepare for more potentially strong spring thunderstorms, flash flooding, or tornadoes. Pack an emergency kit for the car and at home, and stay up-to-date about weather forecasts and dangerous weather. Most importantly, never ignore flash flood warnings or tornado warnings.


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