Stormy Weather.....Be Prepared!

Pat Guinan
State Climatologist
Commercial Agriculture/University of Missouri Extension

By May, spring has sprung across the Show-Me state and the landscape is bathed in various shades of green stretching from the loess hills of northwestern Missouri to the lowlands of the Bootheel. It's also the time of year when thunderstorms are most frequent; nearly 60% of all thunderstorms in Missouri occur between April and July. With the onset of warmer weather, outdoor activities also increase and we should be aware of the risks involved with thunderstorms.

During the period 1978-2007 there was an annual average of 215 fatalities in the United States due to lightning, floods, and tornadoes. Of these natural hazards, flooding is the most deadly. Between 1995-2008 there were 152 deaths attributed to severe weather in Missouri; 63 of those fatalities were due to flooding. The majority of deaths in floods are auto related and occur when people attempt to cross a flooded road. Cars are buoyant and rushing water can be extremely powerful, and with this combination, it only takes two feet of water to carry away most vehicles. The rule for being safe in a flooding situation is simple: Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwaters.

Lightning is also deadly with documented injuries in the U.S. averaging 300 per year. When thunderstorms are in the vicinity, we all need to be aware of our susceptibility to a lightning strike. Most people do not realize the dangers associated with lightning and everyone, especially coaches and other adults who make decisions affecting children, need to be aware of these dangers. First, be aware of developing thunderstorms. When you first see lightning or hear thunder, suspend activities and go to shelter. A metal vehicle or a substantial building is a safe place. The threat of lightning continues for a much longer period than most people realize. Wait until 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder before resuming activities.

One way to stay ahead of the weather is to be informed. Television, radio, and the Internet are all excellent resources and an eye in the sky can be just as good. The increasing accessibility to the Internet has brought numerous weather and climate products into our homes. At the touch of a mouse we can access radar, satellite and severe weather information to name a few. Over the years, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite and most requested weather resources on the Internet. These include information on severe weather, storm safety, local forecasts, radar, satellite, agricultural weather, rivers, streams, etc. You can find all this information at the following web address:

Remember, the best way to minimize risks during severe weather is to know when to react and what to do.