Severe Storms

Thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence in Maryland. Tornadoes and tropical storms/hurricanes are less frequent, but because of their potential to do damage, all are worthy of our attention. Thunderstorms bring with them intense rain, lightning, damaging wind in excess of 50 mph and hail. Winds in tropical storms can get up to 100 mph. Under certain climatic conditions, thunderstorms can be a prelude to a tornado, which can generate whirling winds in excess of 200 mph. Tornado damage can be much localized, while a hurricane can devastate several states. Intensive rain can cause rapid rise in streams and severe flooding. While tornadoes strike with very little warning, we normally get some warning for thunderstorms, and tropical storms/hurricanes are tracked for days before they get to Maryland. Hurricanes can also generate tornados especially in the northeast quarter of the state where hurricanes are at their strongest.

Warning
When weather conditions indicate storm conditions, staff should monitor The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio or a local radio/TV station for public warnings. The National Weather Service (NSW) issues the following advisories:

Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Indicates that weather conditions are such that a thunderstorm may develop.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Indicates that a severe thunderstorm has developed and will probably affect those areas stated in the bulletin.
Tornado Watch: Means that weather conditions are such that a tornado may develop.
Tornado Warning: Means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated on RADAR and protective measures should be taken immediately.
Tropical Storm/Hurricane Watch: Means that conditions indicate that a storm is possible, but has not yet occurred.
Tropical Storm/Hurricane Warning: Means that a tropical storm is expected to strike the area within 24 hours. It contains an assessment of flooding dangers, high wind warnings for the storm’s periphery, estimated storm effects and recommended emergency procedures.

Preparation
Have the facility evaluated for its ability to withstand high winds.
Identify and designate the best internal protective areas within the facility.

If the facility is in a particularly hazardous area, keep materials on hand such as plywood to board up windows, and provide other protection to the facility and outdoor equipment, as necessary.

All staff members and children should know the “signs” of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Know safe evacuation routes to official shelters.

Response
When you receive a tornado warning or if a tornado sighting is reported, children and staff members should seek shelter WITHIN the building or in a designated tornado shelter.
If your facility has a tornado alarm system, it is important that the sound of this alarm not be confused with that of a fire alarm or any other evacuation signal.
During a severe thunderstorm warning, or during periods of particularly high winds, keep children away from glass.
Every facility should also establish a manually operated backup warning system.
During the watch, store portable equipment, outdoor furniture, etc., inside the facility away from shelter areas.
During the warning, secure or store articles which may act as missiles.
If there is insufficient time to take shelter,
Go to the inside wall of a room away from windows.
Sit, or crouch on the floor next to an inside wall or get under tables or other furniture by sitting or lying prone onthe floor, face down.

Adapted from the Day Care Facilities Emergency Planning Guide prepared by the Bureau of Plans, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and information from the FEMA website.