Spring into Storm Season with a Safety Plan in Place

By Bethany Kroeze | Marketing & Communications Specialist

A sign of spring - corn seedlings sprouting from the ground.

Spring is my favorite season. The return of positive temperatures, the warmth of the sunshine, and new life sprouting from the ground – all of these and more give us that nearly perfect window as the seasons transition from a frigid, snow-packed winter to a sweltering, humid summer. One of the best things that comes with the spring season, in my opinion, is the thunderstorm. I enjoy seeing the darkness flash with strikes of lightning, observing the sky change colors in a matter of moments and watching the rain clouds move closer and closer until you’re caught in the downpour.

I’ve always been a front porch storm watcher; even when the sirens are blaring and the meteorologists are calling for people to take shelter, I just want to watch the storm unfold. But last summer, a tornado struck on the campus of a large business in my hometown. As I saw photos and heard stories about the devastation of that storm, I was much more appreciative of the severe weather policies my own company puts into practice. If you’ve never had a tornado or severe thunderstorm strike close to your home (or your heart), you might be a front porch storm watcher like I was. I’m not saying that I won’t continue to watch the storms in awe of their power, but I am saying that I will take safety a little more seriously going forward.

This week in my home state of Iowa, we are observing severe weather awareness, so I thought I would share some tips for storm safety on the farm.

With the arrival of spring, we anticipate severe storms and tornadoes. How can you stay safe while in the field?

Tornadoes

Every year, about 1,200 tornadoes are recorded across the United States. Most tornadoes occur in the spring and summer months, with the highest likelihood between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Winds can reach speeds upwards of 250 miles per hour and the storms can travel 50 miles with that intensity. So, what should you do if a tornado strikes while you are away from home?

  • Get out of your tractor or vehicle. Find a low-lying area, such as a ditch, a safe distance away from your vehicle, and cover your head with your arms or a blanket to protect yourself from flying debris.
  • Know your location. Are you close to a building with a strong inner structure? Don’t try to outrun a tornado with your vehicle, but do find a suitable shelter quickly.

Lightning

Because lightning is more common than a tornado, that makes the electrically-charged jolts more dangerous and it increases the likelihood that lightning could strike near you. The air near a lightning strike can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the sun. Protecting yourself from lightning during a thunderstorm is different than staying safe during a tornado, so remember these tips:

  • Stay in your vehicle. Your truck or tractor provides the best protection from lightning.
  • If you are in an open field without access to a vehicle, find a low spot away from conductors like trees, fences and poles. Crouch down low, but minimize your contact with the ground, and place your hands on your knees with your head between them.

Thunderstorm

In a thunderstorm or sudden downpour, it is safe to remain in your vehicle, but remember this advice:

  • Put on your seatbelt. Cover your head with your arms, a jacket or a blanket.
  • Do not park your vehicle under a freeway, overpass, trees or poles.
  • Do not attempt to drive through a roadway covered with water. It only takes six inches of water to sweep a vehicle away and it is difficult to estimate the depth of the water.

In any event, keep your cell phone charged or have a charger available and make sure weather alerts are turned on for your current location. Talk with your family and your co-workers about a safety plan for severe weather situations and be prepared for severe weather to strike. Tune in to a local radio station or use a weather radio to receive broadcast alerts directly from the National Weather Service.

In a perfect world, we’d have a spring filled with gentle, intermittent rains to refresh our crops, but the recent flooding across the Midwest is just one example that the worst can happen in your state, in your county, and on your farm, so I’ll leave you with this piece of timeless advice: Always be prepared.