Tornado season is here: Weather experts talk what to do to stay safe
It’s tornado season in Nebraska.
And though the risk of a large-scale twister in this neck of the woods isn’t as extreme as it is for other states positioned in the Great Plains, there still is an inherent risk people need to be aware of, said Corey Mead, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Valley.
In June 2014, two tornadoes ripped through the Stanton County village of Pilger, resulting in colossal damage and two deaths. This month, tornado activity has been seen throughout the state with at least one confirmed, EF-2, a tornado touching down in Lincoln and two touching down in rural, southeast Nebraska earlier this week.
While Columbus hasn’t had any close calls this late spring, it’s important for residents of all Nebraska counties to keep a close eye on what is happening with Mother Nature – things can get ugly quick, Mead said.
If there is a tornado warning, residents should take immediate action.
“Really, the guidance we provide as an agency is that people should seek shelter on the lowest floor of their home or business,” Mead said. “If you are on a multilevel apartment, you should always try to get to the ground floor and then you should try to find an interior room that doesn’t have any windows.
“Bathrooms are generally a great place because a lot of older ones – and even some newer ones – use copper pipes in the walls which helps strengthen the walls and should shelter people a little better if things get nasty. Just because those walls are a little stronger.”
Generally, severe weather season in Nebraska spans from April through June, Valley Meteorologist Brett Albright said. The state started off the season relatively quiet regarding tornado action, but has started picking up this month, he said, noting the Lincoln touchdown and one sizable tornado working along the Kansas border within 200 yards of Nebraska.
“The severe weather (nationwide) starts in late winter in the southeastern United States and then migrates west and then toward the north as you move into the summer months,” Albright said. “And for us, with that pattern, we start seeing tornadic activity typically in May and June.”
Just with Nebraska’s geographical positioning, Albright added that there’s always the chance for people to come across a twister, albeit not as likely as for residents living in Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas to the south and southeast.
“Anytime you are (positioned) east of the Rockies (mountains) there’s always the chance to encounter tornadoes,” Albright said. “We have good strong storms forming with cold air, and then that warm air comes up from the Gulf (of Mexico) and when those meet it leads to storms that can cause tornadoes.”
Albright noted that all over the county he hears of certain towns or areas claiming they are immune to being affected by a tornado. Whether because of being positioned in a low portion of ground or in a valley, he said many believe they are in their own “tornado bubble.” This, however, is a flawed line of thinking.
“A lot of regions have their own little myths about tornadoes, but the risk is still there,” he said. “Just because you live in a place like that doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible. If you live anywhere in Nebraska your chances of being hit are fairly low, but the odds are not much different than they are for your neighbors in surrounding areas.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee net.