Be prepared when ugly weather strikes

Lisa Goudy
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Lightning strikes around midnight in Sunningdale in Moose Jaw on May 28, 2014 as the rain started lightly pouring down.

There is a reason Saskatchewan’s slogan is the Land of the Living Skies.

You don’t have to have been in this province for long before you see at least one breathtaking sunset or sunrise. Sometimes hints of red shine through or maybe red and yellow. Looking at it is truly remarkable.

But of course that’s not the only reason our skies are so alive. There’s the flipside of that serenity, that calmness. We experienced that Wednesday night and overnight into Thursday.

For anyone like me who is born and raised in Saskatchewan, thunderstorm watches aren’t uncommon. Quite frankly, tornado watches aren’t that uncommon either. Storms happen quite regularly, especially in the summer months when the weather heats up.

It is important to know what to do if a tornado does strike. We’ve had some close calls and some confirmed tornadoes in the area over the past few years. But tornadoes tend to form quickly and with no warning.

According to the National Weather Service website, if we’re driving and suddenly see a tornado, the best thing to do is to turn around and drive in the opposite direction. Our cars can usually drive faster than a tornado.

If we’re at home, the safest place to be is in the basement in a room with no windows, such as under the stairs. If we don’t have a basement, the best place we can be is in a bathtub as long as there are no windows in the bathroom and it isn’t along an outside wall. A small indoor closet deep in the building with no outside walls, doors or windows can also be a safe place to hide.

The website added that for mobile homes, even a weak tornado can rip them apart. Get to a safe shelter prior to the storm’s arrival. Don’t wait for a watch to turn into a warning because a tornado could form in seconds.

A watch is when conditions are favourable for a tornado or severe thunderstorm to strike but it doesn’t mean that weather is about to happen. A warning, however, means severe weather is about to happen or is happening. These distinctions and safety plans are important to remember. That way, instead of just freaking out and being scared, we can hopefully be as safe as possible, although nothing’s guaranteed when a tornado hits.

Personally, I used to be afraid of thunderstorms. The cracks of thunder gave me shudders as I curled into a ball. I remember a plough wind in Regina in my younger years that tore a window off our house and threw it into the neighbour’s yard. It was scary.

As I got older, I still didn’t like thunderstorms but instead started watching the storms from a window. They do put on a memorable show, along with a feeling of doom and gloom.

I can still get a bit anxious when a tornado watch is issued, but I’m not as afraid anymore. I don’t have astraphobia. I don’t fret or freak out (although I might if I ever do see a tornado). I could never be a storm chaser. I’d be too afraid, but storms are neat until they wreak their havoc in full force. I was pleased when I captured lightning using my Nikon camera late Wednesday night. It was cool in that regard.

That’s hardly the point. It’s not even June and we’ve had our first tornado and severe thunderstorm watch of the season. Chances are we’re going to have more of those this summer.

That’s all the more reason we need to be prepared on the off chance that, one day, a tornado does rip through our city.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: National Weather Service

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Regina

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