By Roger Dickey

Houston County Office of Emergency Management & Fire Marshal

May is peak tornado season for our part of the nation. Tornadoes are defined as violently rotating columns of air that extend from thunderstorms to the ground and are often – although not always – visible as a funnel cloud. They can strike at any time of the day or night, but statistics show the most common occurrence is between 3pm and 9pm. About 1,200 tornadoes occur each year in the United States and every state is at risk.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in the Van Zandt County area after witnessing the devastation that occurred there this past weekend as result of severe tornadic storms that struck the area. These storms resulted in loss of life, many injuries, and major damage to the region. The important thing to remember is these type storms can occur suddenly with little warning and can occur anywhere – even Houston County.

With this in mind, there are some things to consider to be better prepared before, during, and after the storm. First and foremost, have a way to stay abreast of current weather conditions. There are numerous weather apps available for your cell phone. You should monitor local television and radio stations for the latest information. In case of power outages, a battery powered radio would be beneficial. NOAA weather radios are a great benefit, as well.

There a few other things you can do to be better prepared:

Keep fresh batteries in your flashlights.

Keep sturdy shoes or boots near your bed to avoid injury from debris.

Keep something nearby to protect your head from flying debris.

Keep 3 day supply of non perishable foods on hand.

Keep 3 day supply of drinking water on hand.

Practice tornado drills with your family.

Keep a good stock of first aid supplies on hand (splinting and bleeding control).

Establish and practice a communication plan to reach friends and family.

Keep a change or two of clothing in a “go bag”.

Keep a 3 day supply of prescription medications in your “go bag”.

These are just a few ideas and considerations to better prepare. If we stay better prepared, the potential hardships that can occur after an event of this nature can be greatly reduced. Stay alert and stay safe.