Today is the first day of spring. In Oklahoma, that means one thing: Tornado season!
Our state, and particularly the I-44 corridor from north of Chickasha up through Midwest City, is particularly prone to experiencing very severe storms. So much so, that we even have special terminology for warning the public.
According to the Storm Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions are ripe for the development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes.
On days when there is a particularly strong chance of a major tornado outbreak with possible destructive winds and hail, forecasters may enhance their watcheswith the words Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS) to let the viewing public know that the situation is likely to be more severe, possible on the scale of May 3, 1999 or May 20, 2013. Generally speaking, this may include a very dangerous tornado striking a highly populated metropolitan area.
In any case, when you know that there is potential for severe weather (and Oklahomans know this every spring!), you must not only prepare yourself and your human family, but also your four-legged family members.
The Humane Society of the United States has some excellent advice, along with the tips here:
- Plan ahead. Make sure you have a safe place for your pets to go — preferably with you. Just think of your pets as small children who are just as scared and must rely on you for comfort and care. During the May 31, 2013 severe weather event, I took my dog, Boots, to our church, which served as a community shelter during the storm. Several other families had their dogs with them, as well. If you have a storm shelter, practice taking your pets into it.
- Keep emergency supplies handy. Not only will you need water, blankets, lighting and other supplies for you, you’ll need food and water stored in a safe place for your pets as well. Also, make sure you have an extra leash and a crate.
- Make sure your pet has identification. Your pet should have his tags on his collar and, if possible, a microchip implanted. This will ensure that you can be reunited with your pet in the event that you’re separated.
- Bring your pets inside. Once the clouds start rolling in and the wind picks up, it’s time to bring your pets inside, if you haven’t already.
- Take your pets with you. If you have to evacuate, like my family did during the May 31, 2013 storms, or the March 23, 2011 grass fires, have your pets’ emergency supplies ready and take them with you. Make arrangements ahead of time to house your pets with a friend if you’re evacuating for a grass fire or something of that nature. Be prepared to take your animal to shelter with you during violent weather events.
Remember, your pets are like your children. They trust you and are completely dependent on you to take care of them during severe weather. Take that responsibility seriously!