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Fall Severe Weather Awareness Day (September 25, 2013)
 

Although most people associate the spring months with severe weather, Arkansas typically experiences a secondary severe weather season in the fall or early winter about two years out of every three.

 

Two dozen tornadoes were spawned from southwest through central and north central Arkansas (a twenty county area) on 11/27/2005.

In the years 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005, the greatest tornado outbreaks in the state occurred in the fall. In 2009, tornadoes in the fall almost equaled the number of tornadoes in the spring. The deadliest tornado of 2010 was spawned on December 31st in Washington County. Four fatalities resulted.

In the picture: Two dozen tornadoes were spawned from southwest through central and north central Arkansas (a twenty county area) on 11/27/2005. Click to enlarge.

 

People who have lived in Arkansas awhile likely remember December of 1982, when tornado outbreaks hit on December 2nd and again on Christmas Eve.

 

Sometimes the spring severe weather season does not wait until spring officially begins. In 2008, the Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak unfolded on February 5th.

A tornado approached Clinton (Van Buren County) from the southwest toward sunset on 02/05/2008.
In the picture: A tornado approached Clinton (Van Buren County) from the southwest toward sunset on 02/05/2008. The tornado tracked a state record 122 miles through seven counties, and was responsible for thirteen fatalities. The photo is courtesy of Josh Smith.

 

This home on Main Street in Beebe (White County) resembled a doll house (rooms visible from the outside) after it was hit by a tornado on 01/21/1999.

In 1999, the big tornado outbreak was on January 21st. In 2012, tornadoes were most numerous on January 22nd. This year, five tornadoes occurred on January 29th.

In the picture: This home on Main Street in Beebe (White County) resembled a doll house (rooms visible from the outside) after it was hit by a tornado on 01/21/1999. This was one of fifty six tornadoes spawned during this outbreak, mainly along the Interstate 30 and U.S. Highway 67/167 corridors. It remains the largest outbreak in state history.

 

 

In the fall and winter, severe weather usually happens when a strong cold front or storm system aloft collides with unusually warm and humid air. It is very important to keep up with the weather if springlike weather is observed when it should be cold. Find out if severe weather watches and warnings are in effect. Typically, many people are caught by surprise when severe weather happens during the cooler months. That is because they tend to link big storms with spring.

 

Safety Rules/Other Points
1. Be sure you know the difference between a watch and a warning. The National Weather Service issues a Tornado Watch when tornadoes are possible. A Tornado Warning is issued when a tornado has been indicated on doppler weather radar or has been sighted.
2. Counties and cities are mentioned in Tornado Warnings, so know the counties and cities near where you are. If you are new to the area, keep a map handy for reference.
3. Make sure that you have a reliable way to receive weather information. Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radios are an excellent way to keep up with the weather, even if your power has gone out. A battery-powered radio is also a necessity if you are planning to be outdoors.
4. If you are going to be at a large gathering, such as at a school, stadium or place of worship, make sure that someone has been designated to keep an eye on the weather and to listen for the latest watches and warnings.
5. A tornado shelter, tornado cellar, or a safe room is the safest place to be, but most homes do not have these. The next safest place is usually a basement, but these are not common in Arkansas. If you do not have any of these, go to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor of a house or building. You want to put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. You can protect yourself further by getting under a mattress or a heavy piece of furniture.
6. Many businesses, such as large stores, shopping malls, hospitals, nursing homes, and schools have pre-arranged safety plans and designated safe areas. If you are in one of these places, follow the instructions given inside these buildings.
7. Stay away from windows.
8. If you are in a vehicle, your best option is to move to a sturdy building.
9. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection during a tornado, and should be abandoned.
 

Remember that flying debris causes the most casualties in a tornado.

Keep in mind that the elderly, the very young, and people with physical or mental challenges will often need more time to get to safety. Make special provisions if you are a care-giver for these people.

Finally, severe thunderstorms can produce just as much damage as weak (rated EF0/EF1) tornadoes. While many people believe that a tornado must occur before they can collect on their home insurance, this is not true. A standard homeowners policy in Arkansas does not differentiate between damage caused by severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.


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