Reprinted from: http://www.monsoonsafety.org/safety-prep/
The best way to avoid lightning, flash floods, and other dangerous conditions is by not being in danger in the first place. Many ways are available to gain weather information including:
- Watching current weather forecasts on TV or the internet
- Listening to weather reports on the radio or a NOAA weather radio
- Subscribing to lightning and severe weather notification services
- Scanning the skies 360 degrees around and overhead before leaving a safe location
Disaster Supply Kit Contents
Every family should prepare a family disaster supply kit in the event of severe weather conditions. The disaster supply kit should contain essential items such as food, water, and sturdy clothing, to sustain a family for up to three days since electric power, gas and water services may be interrupted.
- Three gallons of water in clean, closed containers for each person and pet
- First aid kit
- A stock of food that requires no cooking or refrigeration
- Portable and working battery-operated radio, flashlights, and extra batteries
(Candles and oil lamps are fire hazards)
- Necessary medications
- Back-up power source for life support or other medical equipment that requires electricity to function
Flash Flood Safety
Many governmental agencies are dedicated to alerting the community to road closures during our thunderstorm season. City of Tucson’s Operation Splash and Pima County Department of Transportation pre-deploy barricades and emergency flashers to locations where they know water will be running across roadways, causing major problems for motorists.
Local law enforcement and fire departments pre-deploy response teams into areas that are known to become inaccessible during heavy rain and runoff conditions.
More deaths each year occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm-related hazard because people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles that are swept downstream.
Flash Flood Safety for Homeowners
- If you live in a flood prone area have an evacuation plan.
- Store materials like sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber for protection from floodwaters and to make quick repairs after a severe storm.
- Store materials above flood levels.
- Secure wanted objects to prevent them from floating away.
- Learn where to find high ground, which is safe from flooding. In a flash flood seek high ground quickly.
- Contact an insurance agent to discuss flood insurance coverage. Flood losses are not covered under normal homeowners’ insurance policies. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program. Get coverage early-there is a waiting period before it takes effect.
Turn Around Don’t Drown™ Safety Tips
- Driving around barricades is illegal and dangerous.
- Do not let children play near storm drains or washes after a heavy rain.
- Avoid low-water crossings.
- Avoid camping in a wash or in the bottom of a canyon with steep side slopes.
- Be especially cautious at night. Flood dangers are much more difficult to see in the dark.
- Even a less serious urban flood can be dangerous. Driving too fast through standing water can cause a car to hydroplane. The best defense is to slow down or pull well off the road (with the lights off) for a few minutes to wait out heavy rains.
- Avoid areas already flooded, especially if the water is flowing fast.
- Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
- Do not camp or park a vehicle along streams and washes, particularly during threatening conditions.
- If flooding occurs, get to higher ground. Get out of areas subject to flooding. This includes dips, low spots, canyons, washes, etc.
- Roadbeds may be washed out under floodwaters. Never drive through flooded roadways.
- If your vehicle is suddenly caught in rising water, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
- If a traffic signal is out, treat the intersection as a 4-way stop.
- As little as ten inches of water can float average-sized cars, mini-vans, SUVs and trucks. Strength of the flow is the critical force.
- When in doubt, wait it out, or find a safer route.
When thunder roars, go indoors. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. There is no place outside that is safe from a lightning strike. Remaining indoors for 30 minutes after seeing the last lightning and hearing the last thunder will eliminate the risk at the end of storms.
If fewer than 30 seconds elapse between the time you see a flash and hear the thunder, then the flash is less than 6 miles away. Research has shown that the most successive flashes are within 6 miles, which means that you should have reached a safe place if lightning is less than 6 miles away. However, lightning may strike up to 10 miles away from the parent storm.
If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 immediately.
- Never touch wiring during a thunderstorm. It’s too late to unplug electronics if thunder is heard.
- Corded phones are dangerous during thunderstorms. Lightning traveling through telephone wires has killed people. Cell phone and cordless phones are safe.
- Wait to use any plumbing-sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. Plumbing can conduct electricity from lightning strikes from outside.
- Unplug expensive electronics including TV, stereo, home entertainment centers, and computers modem lines when thunderstorms are expected, and before the storm arrives. Typically, summer thunderstorms form in the early to mid-afternoon, when most people are at work.
- Stop playing video games connected to the TV.
No place outside is safe from lightning during a thunderstorm. When a storm approaches go to a nearby large substantial building or a fully-enclosed metal-topped vehicle. Bring pets indoors. Lightning and thunder are very scary for pets, and they are likely to panic or even run away to try and escape the storm.
Power and Communications Outage Safety
Power and communications outages can be more widespread and last longer than a thunderstorm. Be ready for outages inside and outdoors by taking precautions and actions to minimize inconvenience and maximize safety. Protect sensitive electrical equipment by installing power protection devices that can be purchased at department, hardware or electronics stores.
- Stay at home.
- Use a cell phone. Cordless phones do not work without electricity. Use corded phone only for emergencies.
- Unplug sensitive electronic equipment before the storm arrives.
- Turn off electric appliances that were on before power was lost. Leave one light on as an indicator for when power is restored.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed — food will stay fresh up to 8 hours.
- If the power is out for less than two hours, do not open the refrigerator or freezer. This will help food to stay cold. For a power outage lasting longer than two hours, pack cold and frozen foods into coolers. As a general rule, perishable foods should not be held over 40 degrees for more than two hours.
- During a thunderstorm, turn off the AC unit. Power surges from lightning can overload units, leading to costly repair bills.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- Call 911 to report downed power lines.
- If a power line comes into contact with your vehicle, remain inside the vehicle until help arrives. Do not attempt to get out of the vehicle – that is the safest place for you to be. By stepping out of the vehicle, your body can become the pathway for electricity to reach the ground, causing severe bodily harm and possibly electrocution. Use a cell phone, if available, to notify emergency services of the exact location.
How Storms Affect the Delivery of Electric Power
- TEP plans for storms in advance, ensuring that our equipment is working, keeping a sufficient amount of supplies on hand and placing extra crews on call. TEP’s computer-operated Outage Management System allows service to be restored as quickly and as safely as possible.
- High winds and lightning strikes can cause lines to cross and short out or break, thereby interrupting the flow of electricity.
- Lightning can strike a transformer on a pole or a substation interrupting the delivery of electricity — even miles away from the location of the strike.
- TEP is continuously servicing and upgrading our equipment, making it more able to withstand storm hazards.
- These are an underrated killer in Arizona! Straight lines winds in any thunderstorm can lift huge clouds of dust and reduce visibilities to near zero in seconds, which can quickly result in deadly, multi-vehicle accidents on roadways.
- Dust storms, or haboobs, are more common during the early part of the monsoon, but can occur at any time during the season, depending on rainfall patterns. Be prepared for blowing dust and reduced visibilities any time thunderstorms are nearby.
- Remember: PULL ASIDE, STAY ALIVE! If you encounter a dust storm, and cannot avoid driving into it. Pull off the road as far as you can safely do so. Turn off your headlights and taillights. Put your vehicle in “PARK,” and/or engage your parking brake, and take your foot off the brake (so your brake lights are not illuminated.) Other motorists may tend to follow tail lights in an attempt to get through the dust storm, and may strike your vehicle from behind. For additional information, see pullasidestayalive.org
- Dust storms usually last a few minutes, and up to an hour at most. Stay where you are until the dust storm passes.