As any weather forecaster with any experience will tell you, severe weather, especially tornadoes, can occur anywhere on Earth, any day of the year, and at any time of the day or night--IF the right conditions exist. Because of this fact, perhaps the single most important step you can take to protect yourself and those you love from the threat of severe weather is simply to keep abreast of changing weather conditions. This is especially important during the two primary "tornado seasons" that occur each year. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the first and primary season is from March through June, while the second is generally from October through early December, especially in the region known as "Dixie Alley."
By far, the single most important means of keeping abreast of changing weather conditions is the NOAA Weather Radio network. Since the early 1950's, and especially since the mid-1970's the National Weather Service has worked to establish a nationwide network of radio stations devoted to making the latest weather information available to the public. There are now more that 450 of these transmitters in active operation, broadcasting on frequencies between 162.4 and 162.55 Megahertz on the Public Service Radio Band, which is established and allocated by the Federal Communications Commission. Through partnerships with other government agencies and local industries, efforts are now under way to expand the network still further, with a goal of reaching not less than 95% of the American public, broadcasting not only weather information, but also information on marine weather hazards, earthquake and volcanic activity, hazardous material emergencies, and even Amber Alerts.
While most commercial radio and television broadcasters do an excellent job of keeping the public informed in such instances, they would be the first to agree that having a NOAA Weather Radio receiver in your home is still an important defense against the threat of severe weather of any kind. These receivers are available at prices ranging from around $20 to $50, and can be purchased at many local electronics stores, department stores, and, in a growing number of areas, in many larger grocery stores, to say nothing of online vendors.
In my next posting, I'll go into what features you should look for when choosing a specific weather radio, and the reasons behind them.