Severe Weather Awareness Week: Tips be prepared & stay safe for potential weather in Michigan

Posted at 10:05 PM, Mar 14, 2024

(WXYZ) — Severe Weather Awareness week runs through March 23, and the goal is to keep make sure people have a plan for severe weather in Michigan.

Reminder: Download the WXYZ app on your phone to get severe weather alerts right away

The state has been seeing more severe weather over the past couple of years, with tornadoes hitting Michigan just last month, and several tornadoes across the state last year.

On top of that, Michigan is prone to have flooding, strong thunderstorms, high winds and more.

With Severe Weather Awareness Week, the state conducted a statewide tornado drill on Wednesday, March 20 at 1 p.m.

Below, you can learn more about the types of severe weather in Michigan and tips to keep you and your family safe.

Tornadoes

According to the National Weather Service, the state averages 15 tornadoes each year. You don't have much time to prepare, as the average lead time for tornadoes to develop is just 10-15 minutes. That means you have to move quickly.

VIDEO: Tips on how to stay safe during a tornado:

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Tornadoes and what to know

Here are tips to be ready for a tornado:

  • Know the difference between a watch and a warning: A watch means conditions exist for a tornado, while a warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.
  • Know the signs of an approaching tornado: Dark, often greenish sky; large hail; large, dark, low-lying cloud; loud roar
  • Stay tuned to commercial radio or TV broadcasts. Be sure to download the WXYZ app as we send severe weather push alerts straight to your phone
  • Develop an emergency preparedness kit with items like three days worth of water and food, a weather radio, important documents and more
  • Identify a safe place in your home for family members to gather
  • Make sure everyone understands the tornado system warning

Safest areas of your home

Last year, 7 First Alert Meteorologist Mike Taylor went through and broke down the safest areas of your home when severe weather strikes or a tornado warning is issued.

Watch him explain the safest areas of your home below:

Where are the safest areas of your home to go during severe weather?

The basement is by far the safest area of the home, but the quest for the safest spot doesn't end there. When you get to the basement, look for an interior room. This is like safety on top of safety. You're in the lowest level and you're also in an interior room.

Basements are always the safest option. But what if your house doesn't have a basement? There are some locations that you can go in the first floor that could also be safe.

Windows can easily shatter or debris can break them, sending glass flying everywhere into the home. Exterior walls aren't much better.

The first thing we tell people to do is get as far away from windows as possible, and the exterior walls because debris can come through them. Not only the windows, but it can also come through the walls.

Look for an interior room on the first floor if you don't have a basement. One of the center-most rooms you have, usually a bathroom, away from exterior walls.

In the bathroom, plumbing helps as well as reinforcement. We want a sturdy structure to protect us as best as we can.

Flash Flooding

You may not have known, but flash flooding is the deadliest weather event nationwide. It's the type of flooding that happens quickly when there is too much rain too fast.

When flash flooding occurs, you may not know how deep the water is. It takes only six inches of water to move your car around.

VIDEO: What to know about flooding and the dangers

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Flooding and the risks

River floods come on slower, but they usually last longer, and we mostly see them coming as the water gradually rise and then gradually get lower.

Lakeshore flooding advisory is usually connected to higher lake levels and happens along the coasts. We've seen this before along Lake St. Clair, most recently in the winter with the ice.

The bottom line, especially with flash flooding: Turn around, don't drown.

Severe Thunderstorms

A severe thunderstorm is stronger than a traditional thunderstorm and has a threat to life and property. It's the greatest threat we have in Michigan.

Severe thunderstorms are more common and more damaging than tornadoes because of the straight-line winds and wind gusts.

VIDEO: Hear about the dangers of straight line winds:

Severe Weather Awareness Week: The danger of straight line winds

They are considered severe when there is hail that is 1" or more in diameter and wind gusts 58 mph or higher.

HAIL

VIDEO: What to know about how hail dangers and how hail forms:

Severe Weather Awareness Week: 'I opened the door, I said what the hail!'

Lightning: The most frequent sever weather threat in Michigan

A bolt of lightning is hotter than the sun, and can be as hot as 50,000 degrees.

Lightning can also strike over five miles away, which is why people say: If the thunder roars, go indoors. If you hear thunder, you're likely close enough to be struck by lightning.

VIDEO: How to stay safe when lightning is near

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Shedding light on lightning

There's also a rule – the 5 seconds to 1-mile rule. If you see the flash of lightning, count to five, then hear thunder, that means it's about a mile away.

If you don't have anywhere to go, avoid trees, avoid metal, that's what lightning is attracted to. If you don't have anywhere to go, crouching down in a ditch is best.

Also, if you go to your car, you will be protected because of lighting, but it's not the reason most people think. Tires don't protect you from lightning. The truth is, it's the frame of your car that the lightning can travel to and then arc to the surface. So, make sure you're not in a convertible.

Building an emergency Preparedness Kit

When building an emergency preparedness kit, the first thing you should focus on is getting a basic kit ready. A basic kit has certain recommended supplies.

Those are:

  • Water: One gallon per person per day
  • Food: At least three-day supply and a can opener
  • Battery-powered radio and NOAA radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, plastic ties
  • Dust mask or cotton shirt to filter the air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape
  • Wrench or pliers

For clothing and bedding, you must think about warmth as you may not have heat. Bring at least one change of arm clothing and shoes per person, plus sleeping bags, sturdy shoes, hats and gloves and more.
Other items you could include are:

  • Light stick or emergency candle
  • Multi-use tool
  • Rain gear
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Cash or traveler's check and change
  • Tent
  • Compass
  • Pet supplies
  • Signal flare
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Disinfectant
  • Medicine dropper
  • Important family documents