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Editorial: Severe weather

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mother Nature went on a wild mood swing last week.

In the course of just a few days, we saw high temperatures in the 70s and the 20s.

On Tuesday night, we saw severe weather that spawned tornadoes that ripped roofs off houses and knocked trains off tracks. Tractor-trailers were whipped sideways, causing accidents on highways.

We were fortunate that we had no reported deaths locally. The system, given that it blew through at night and in January -- when there is less visibility and many could have downplayed a tornado threat -- could have been much worse. Today's technology has allowed for word of warnings to spread much faster. From text alerts to social media, many no doubt heeded the warnings and spared themselves from danger. Warning sirens also are becoming more prevalent in local towns and cities.

The accidents and train derailment emphasize how dangerous it can be while traveling during storms.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that you pull over and park if you see flying debris while driving. It recommends staying in the car with your seat belt fastened, putting your head below the windows and covering your head with a blanket, cot or cushion if possible. The agency says if you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Don't get under an overpass, and never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas while in your car.

Another valuable tip is that when the forecast calls for severe weather, make sure to charge your phones early so, in case the power goes out, they will be fully charged. Smartphones allow you to keep in touch with those you know, allow you to track the weather and even can be used as flashlights. Cellphones just may be the best emergency communication device ever invented for the masses, but they will be of no use if their batteries are dead.

Last week was one of the strangest weather weeks in recent memory. In Missouri, you've got to be ready for just about anything.


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