Be Prepared, Not Scared

PeakRiskNTXW

Probability of any mode of severe weather within 25 miles of a given point at the peak of North Texas severe weather season [source]

It is obvious that the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is booming. In 2015, twenty-one companies based in DFW snagged coveted spots on the Fortune 500 list. Jobs created directly and indirectly by these companies, coupled with the metro’s saturated higher education market, attract droves of people every year. Indeed, the metroplex’s population is projected to be 11 million by 2040. What might not be obvious to our newcomers are the threats that North Texas’ springs can bring.

HailLewisville

Lewisville Hailstone, March 27, 2017 [source]

DFW is located squarely in what is commonly known as “Tornado Alley.” However, tornadoes are not the only severe weather risk to this thriving community. It is not uncommon for DFW to see baseball sized hail, 60 to 90+ MPH straight-line winds and excessive cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. But while DFW’s weather can be extreme and dangerous, there is no need to panic. As local meteorologist Rick Mitchell says, “Be prepared, not scared.”

Rest assured, the North Central Texas College is prepared! As a Weather Ready Nation Ambassador, NCTC is committed to mitigating weather-related harm, and loss of life by educating its community. The college is also in the final stages of being recognized as a StormReady institution. Some signs of being StormReady are hard to miss, such as the LionAlerts sent out via text, email and social media. Others, though very critical, go largely unnoticed. Each campus is fitted with a weather station that monitors meteorological conditions including rain amounts, temperature, wind speed, humidity and barometric pressure.

This information is relayed to the National Weather Service (NWS) via the Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP), and is often used to produce infographics during significant weather events. Those curious about conditions at specific campuses are welcome to monitor them in real time on the Weather Underground website. Another condition for NCTC becoming StormReady is communication between our Office of Emergency Management, the NWS, storm spotters and other weather professionals, which takes place largely in a secure chatroom. While being part of a vigilant organization should bring peace of mind, it is imperative that all DFW residents arm themselves with the information they need to be weather-aware.

Know your risk level

MargRiskTornadoes

The SPC assigned the a level one, or marginal, risk for the dark green area on January 16, 2017 [source]. The red cluster indicates three confirmed tornadoes on January 16, 2017 [source].

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is based out of Norman, Oklahoma and is an extension of the NWS. The SPC is responsible for assigning severe weather risk levels, and issuing watches for severe weather events. There are several weather prediction models that attempt to predict future weather based on current conditions. The SPC assesses these models and assigns a severe threat level for the current day (day one), day two, and days four through eight. Threat levels range from green (1) to pink (5), and indicate the coverage of severe storms in an area; not necessarily their intensity. Tornadoes can and have occurred in marginal threat areas! Unfortunately prediction models can disagree widely up until 24 hours before an event begins. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you monitor your risk level periodically for any changes.

 

Stay posted to official local forecasts

CWAFWD

County Warning Area for the Fort Worth/Dallas Weather Forecast Office for the National Weather Service.

While the SPC publishes risk levels and watches for the United States, local forecasts and warnings are issued by local weather forecast offices. Cooke, Denton, Montague and Young counties fall within the Fort Worth/ Dallas Weather Forecast Office’s county warning area. This is a great resource for more detailed forecasts and information on weather impacting specific locations. Official forecasts from NWS weather forecast offices are indispensable as they are the product of intense calculations and are not subject to hype as is the case with many commercial outlets.

Have a plan!

Once you know severe weather is in your future, have an action plan in place for when it actually strikes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has excellent tips for what to do in case of severe weather such as…

Be a weather geek, not a weather wimp

EmersonVery often newcomers to this are will react to a severe weather event with either complete indifference, or immobilizing panic. Both responses are likely due to a lack of knowledge regarding the causes and impacts of severe weather. In the case of the latter, weather ignorance can paint even benign storms as hostile specters that appear quite literally out of thin air. Understanding the basic elements of storm development and evolution can help a great deal with cultivating a healthy attitude towards North Texas Weather. The NCTC Libraries have a multitude of resources to combat meteorological illiteracy.

encyclopedia of weatherThe Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change: A Complete Visual Guide by Juliane L. Fry (Gainesville) QC854 .E5258 2010

Fry teaches molecular and environmental chemistry at Reed College in Portland. Other contributing authors include climate scientist Richard Grotjahn, professor of earth and environmental sciences Dr. Clive Saunders from Machester, and independent meteorological consultant Richard Whitaker. Climate and weather terms are explained in easy to understand language and illustrated with vivid color photographs.

meteorology demystifiedMeteorology Demystified by Stan Gibilisco (eBook and Gainesville) QC 863.4 .G53 2006.

This title is available in both print and online through the EBSCOhost eBook Collection database. Gibilisco designed this book for those wishing to teach themselves about meteorology. It begins with foundational knowledge including the phases of matter, variables that commonly influence the atmosphere, and how forecasts are created. The formation and features of extreme weather such as thunderstorms, tornadoes and tropical cyclones are highlighted. Gibilisco also explains concept related to abnormal weather and the future of our climate.

Texas weatherTexas Weather by George W. Bomar (Gainesville, Corinth, and Bowie) QC 984 .T4 B67 1995

Tornadoes, thundersleet, and dust storms are all typical of a weekly Texas forecast. Meteorologist George Bomar tackles all of them and explains what it is about the geography and topography of the region that makes it so prone to such erratic weather. As they say in Texas, this title is an oldie, but a goodie.

into the stormInto The Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-Defying Adventures in Extreme Weather by Reed Timmer and Andrew Tilin (Gainesville) QC 941.8 .T56 2011

Meteorologist Reed Timmer is largely credited with branding extreme weather as entertainment. He has inspired legions of amateurs and professionals alike to venture into dangerous territory to get the perfect shot of a severe storm, or possibly a tornado. His chase vehicle, the Dominator, has made regular appearances on I-35 as it makes its way to the next big severe weather outbreak. Timmer details his brushes with such systems and his sometimes contentious encounters with other storm chasers in this fascinating read.

weather of the futureThe Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet by Heidi Cullen (Flower Mound) QC 903 .C85 2010

As chief scientist for Climate Central, Cullen boasts an incredibly prestigious education and body of contributions to the field of climate and atmospheric research. She received her bachelors and Ph.D. from Columbia University, serves on various meteorological boards and councils and has previously worked as the first “on-air climate expert” for the Weather Channel. The Weather of the Future looks at significant events and subtle trends in earth’s climatological history to guide predictions of what can be expected in the coming years. Dr. Cullen has carefully chosen cities and regions of great interest to climatologists to paint a very telling picture. Areas tackled include the Great Barrier Reef on the coast of Australia, New York City, Dhaka, Bangladesh and points in the Arctic.

Climate of extremesClimate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know by Patrick J (Corinth) QC 981.8 G 56 M534 2009

The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that the earth is warming, and professors Michaels and Balling concur. However the authors disagree with the “gloom-and-doom” this reality is typically delivered with. They attempt to temper this refrain of alarm-bell ringing and treat a wealth of scientific research with a more moderate tone that is arguably the minority in their field.

–Contributed by Sabrina McKethan, Librarian, Corinth Campus (with thanks to Chris McLaughlin, NCTC Director of Emergency Management)

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