How do I prepare for severe weather?

Severe summer weather can happen at any time and anywhere. The three biggest severe weather killers in the United States today are tornadoes, lightning and flash floods. Your best protection is to be prepared.

Lightning strikes the Wisconsin Capitol reflected on Lake Monona in May 2018.
Photo credit: Kenton Fowler, Monona.

First, you need access to reliable weather information so you remain alert for potential weather hazards. Get a NOAA weather radio for weather updates. Subscribe to wireless emergency alerts, or WEAs, that provide free messages to your cell phone that will alert you about severe weather in your area. For more information on WEA Alerts, go to

Tune in to local forecasters on radio or television to get additional information. Local forecasters are experts on regional weather and can interpret observations and conditions for you.

In the case of tornado, go into a tornado shelter or the basement or into a small interior room on the lowest floor of a building, such as a bathroom or closet. Protect yourself from flying debris and stay away from windows. If you are in a mobile home or car, leave it and go to a strong building.

As for lightning, the National Weather Service, or NWS, advocates the simple rule: “When thunder roars, go indoors!” Avoid flagpoles, metal fences, golf carts, baseball dugouts and farm equipment. If you are in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of bushes or small trees.

Move to high ground when threatened by flooding. Stay out of flooded areas. Never drive your car across a flooded road, even if you think the water is shallow. As the NWS says, “Turn around, don’t drown.”

The NWS provides information and ideas for preparing for severe weather and you can learn more safety tips, available at

Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the UW-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. the last Monday of each month.
Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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