It’s time for April showers (and hail, wind, thunder, lightning, severe weather and tornado warnings, oh my!). Living my entire life on either the Gulf Coast or North/Central Texas has turned me into a severe weather junkie! Don’t tell my kids or my parents, but I admit that I have even chased storms in my younger, more reckless days. During my junior year at Baylor University, Waco experienced an epic hail storm on April 28, 1992.
In fact, it is ranked as the 3rd most damaging hail storm in the nation and the 8th costliest Texas weather event according to the Insurance Council of Texas. At the time the storm hit, I was rollerblading with some friends on the newly constructed parking garage on campus, with no storm shelters in sight. We were fascinated with the wild colors in the clouds and we wanted to watch the storm from the top floor of the garage. Suddenly we were assaulted by hail up to 4 inches in diameter and wind gusts up to 100 mph! We were able to take cover in a stairwell just in time! The storm left a trail of devastation all over our beautiful campus and after hearing stories from my friends and neighbors, I realized that we were completely unprepared for severe weather situations. Several of my friends ended up with broken arms after they shielded their heads with their arms. A neighbor had to be treated for injuries sustained when the window he was looking out of shattered from the force of the storm. The storm caused us to be without power for a couple of days and we were not prepared with emergency supplies. I know plenty of people who were resigned to live in storm shelters during the spring months for the rest of their lives! Preparing for severe weather is a bit different when you live in an apartment or condo since your Camden Community Manager will probably frown upon you building storm shelters in your courtyard. Since the only predictable thing about spring weather is its unpredictability, how should you prepare yourself and your apartment home for inevitable severe storm? Here are a few simple tips to keep you and your family prepared:
- Invest in a NOAA Weather Radio. I realize that we live in a connected world, but when severe weather hits you want to have a portable radio that does not rely on power. You cannot guarantee that you will have phone and internet connection to alert you to weather warnings. The $30-50 dollars you will spend is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
- Know the difference between a Watch and a Warning. A Watch means that the weather conditions will be favorable for severe weather. You should be checking your local weather report frequently and be alert to changing conditions. A Warning means that severe weather is headed your way. At this point you should follow your pre-determined severe weather plan and head to your safe area.
- Make a plan ahead of time. Practice the plan with your family so everyone in your household is on the same page. Where will you go when severe weather threatens your apartment home? The best place is the ground floor, so if you live in an upper unit, make friends with your downstairs neighbors. Residents who live on the bottom floor should be prepared to welcome upstairs neighbors if there is a tornado warning in the immediate area. If you do not have access to a bottom floor, go to an interior room and get as close to the floor as possible. If your community office or clubrooms are available, you can usually find a place inside away from windows and exterior walls. Feel free to talk to your Camden staff about the best place to go during a storm and the availability of any storm shelters in the area.
- Keep and emergency kit on hand. Your box should contain a flashlight, fresh batteries, water, cash, a list of emergency service contact information and a first aid kit. Make sure everyone in your home knows where it is located.
- Keep an eye out for your pets. Severe weather can spook even the most laid-back pooch. Many, many dogs are lost during a thunderstorm, so if you keep your puppy outside (even in a fenced yard), it would be wise to bring them inside until the weather quiets down. Cats tend to hide in unreachable places when they are scared, so you should think about putting them in a cat carrier or shut them in a safe room.
- Stay away from windows. As tempting as it is to watch severe weather as it approaches your home, many injuries are caused by shattered glass and projectiles flying through windows.
- Use surge protectors on your electronic devices. Even if a storm doesn’t appear to be severe, lightning can cause damage to the electronics in your home. It is best to unplug computers, TVs and gaming systems during a weather warning, but if that is not possible, a surge protector might help to lessen the chance of damage.
- Have renter’s insurance. Camden requires all residents to carry a liability policy, but you should think about covering your personal property in case of severe weather.
- Don’t rush outside once the storm has passed. If the storm was severe enough there could be debris, downed electrical lines and high water all around your home and parking lot.
- Understand all of the weather resources available to you in your area. Many cities offer free a severe weather emergency notification system via text or email. In the DFW are there is a paid subscription service, WeatherCall, that will notify you by phone if there is a warning in your area.
It’s time to play in the spring weather not think about hiding out in storm shelters! Preparing for severe weather season ahead of time will help you to enjoy the May flowers that come after these April showers.