After the active winter season that many of us have experienced, it’s hard to believe that tornado season is right around the corner. Although tornadoes can occur during any month, there are statistically defined tornado seasons for all states (see NOAA map below and note that California’s season began in January.) How do you prepare for tornado season?
1. Make sure your staff know what to do if a tornado warning is issued for your area. This includes notifying patrons of the tornado and directing them away from windows and doors.
2. Make sure you have identified strategies for continuing your core services from a remote site, in the event that you lose physical access to your library. See our new brochure (click here) for tips on how to keep your services going when your library is closed.
Every morning, I spend about 20 minutes looking over my RSS news feeds, all related to emergency preparedness. Currently, most of the news is about the just-ended hurricane season, however, I’ve noticed a trend toward a greater concern about the threat of bioterrorism. The two events that seem to have prompted this concern are the release of the progress report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism coupled with the amount of time it has taken to distribute the H1N1 vaccine. The Commission’s report warns that “The biological threat is greater than the nuclear; the acquisition of deadly pathogens, and their weaponization and dissemination in aerosol form, would entail fewer technical hurdles than the theft or production of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and its assembly into an improvised nuclear device.” This warning along with the potential of an accidental incident dealing with harzardous materials should prompt us all to be looking at our shelter-in-place procedures.
Cyber terrorism is also getting a lot of attention, thanks in part by last month’s 60 Minutes report. A potential target, experts warn, is the power grid, so you may want to keep your print core textbooks accessible and up-to-date.
Statistically, December is the month with the fewest tornadoes, so this is a good time to be looking over your tornado response procedures. We’re also seeing a downward trend of H1N1 activity. Hopefully, you all have a solid pandemic plan in place in the event that the virus spikes again in the winter or spring. (If not, check out our Pandemic Planning Resources page.) And if you have a pandemic plan, you are therefore ready for a severe winter storm, as many of the steps you would take in a pandemic (e.g. reduced staffing, work from home) you could also take with a severe winter storm.
Did you know that there is a “mirror season” for tornadoes in the U. S.? Because of the temperature changes in the fall in the northern hemisphere, fall weather conditions mirror, to some extent, the conditions that exist in the spring and can spawn “swarms” of tornadoes. This is an El Nino year, which will affect all of the U.S., but especially the southern and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S. (look out Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas!), bringing a wetter and somewhat cooler winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Click here to see the NOAA page with lots of enlightening info. The positive aspects of an El Nino year include increased moisture for drought-stricken areas as well as a dampening effect on hurricane activity during summer and fall, but an increased chance for “organized” tornado activity in the fall goes hand-in-hand. See the maps below from the NOAA site mentioned above for their forecast of both temperature and precipitation for the U.S. this winter. So, especially for those in the southeast tier of U.S. states, brush off those shelter-in-place plans for your institutions’ buildings and think about preparedness at home, just in case!
At last week’s Hospital Librarians Summit, it was suggested that we link to a site that would show reports of weather-related events. As a result, we now have a link to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center’s report of the previous day’s storms. The link (Yesterday’s Storm Reports) is located on the right column of the Toolkit under the category Alerts and Reports.
As winter bids us farewell with a few inches of snow and sub-freezing temperatures (increasingly rare here in central Virginia), we note that the likelihood of tornadoes will be increasing as the weather turns warmer. As they say, there is no real tornado “season,” because one can happen any time and in any place, but we see that internet searchers are looking for information on tornado preparedness more often now, so here is some information that we hope will be helpful in preparing for the tumultuous spring weather than can give birth to tornadoes and other severe storms.
Many states will be running tornado preparedness drills in March. Here’s the Virginia site that lists information about the state-wide drill on March 17, as well as how to run a tornado drill. Check out the information on the page about how to find the safest place inside your building to shelter from a tornado.
NOAA weather radios are wonderful to have in your building if you are in an area that is particularly vulnerable to servere storms, or you just want to keep in touch with weather events. They are available with a range of features and at a price range from $25 and up, from a variety of sources. (Amazon lists many models and prices.) Ours has alerted us several times to thunderstorms in the summer, which helped us to be prepared for possible power disruptions and wind/water damage. The NOAA radios receive information continuously from the National Weather Service, and you can set them to sound an alert to your specific area so that the alarm doesn’t sound more often than necessary. Best wishes to everyone for a safe and happy spring season!
Many news reports have recently been written about the large number of tornadoes that have hit the United States this year, primarily, meteorologist say, due to the southern dip in the jet stream. Indeed, there is a possibility that this season could be one of the most active and deadliest. Here is a map from NOAA that documents the peak seasons for each state in the contiguous United States.