Saturday, March 03, 2012

Severe Weather Outbreaks & Weather Radios

As most of us know, severe weather has been a major pain in the collective rear end of the central and southern parts of this country over the past year, with New England getting in on run of severe weather with the Springfield tornado last summer.   While the vast majority of these events occur while we're awake, there are those events that do happen at night, such as the tornadoes and thunderstorm damage that occurred in Branson earlier this week.

With yesterday's reports of over 90 tornadoes and over 240 reports of damaging wind across the Ohio Valley and Mid South...and it being the second significant outbreak of severe weather in just a few days' time, one has to wonder if we're going to ramp into a rather active severe weather season again across the country.

La Nina's do have a tendency to lead to stronger severe weather seasons nationally as upper level winds over the country tend to be a bit higher in the "northern" jet.  Those upper winds can provide the dynamics to fuel wind shear (changing wind direction with height) and with moisture and heat beginning to push north as days push longer, severe weather outbreaks will continue to increase over the coming weeks nationally as we fully transition into Spring and the airmass clash between retreating chill and increasing warmth pushes on.

While our region is not in prime real estate for severe weather, the Springfield tornado from last year does show that it can happen anywhere in the lower 48 with the right conditions in place.  It doesn't hurt to have a weather radio around just in case.

A couple of good types include those with "S.A.M.E." technology built in -- which means if a tornado warning is issued for your specific geographic area, the radio will activate its alarm and wake you up.  You just have to program the radio with your location (not that tough to do).   These come in really handy down South or in the Midwest where tornadoes are more common -- you really wouldn't want to be awaken with warnings for every part of the region.   These type of radios run between $25 and $80 on Amazon -- $25 for the portable battery-operated to $75 for ones that will dock your iPod and include an alarm clock built in.  One variety, the Midland WMR-300 is pretty popular and has an alarm clock built in but doesn't dock your iPod (sorry, kids) and runs between $40 and $60 depending who you buy it from.

For the mobile user, there are weather radio apps out there for both iPhone and Droid technology.  These don't have the SAME technology built in (yet) but I would think that isn't too far away.

Again, while we're not the prime tornado real estate it's never a bad idea to at least have some type of weather radio in your house or on your phone just in the rare case a severe outbreak were to impact our region at night in the future.