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Weather the Weather Whatever the Weather

By Staff Sgt. Torey Griffith 11th Wing Public Affairs

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As summer arrives in the National Capitol Region, many Team Andrews members are busy planning trips to the beach, cookouts and family trips to local sites. Nuisances like sunburns, bugs and traffic may put a damper on those plans, but nothing can suck the fun out of a hot summer day like a fast-moving and powerful thunderstorm.

While twisters aren't as common here as they are in the Midwest, tornado-producing thunderstorms do still occur, bringing with them the possibility for localized flash flooding (especially in low-lying areas and older communities where the storm drainage system is out of date), coastal flooding, damaging winds and hail.

Advances in meteorological science and more sophisticated technology have significantly increased predictability and warning times, these storms still take many by surprise. Thunderstorms can become violent quickly and bring a range of threats as they sweep through the area, so situational awareness is vital.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flash flooding is the number one storm-related killer in the United States, taking more than 140 lives annually. As little as six inches of fast-moving water can sweep one of one's feet, and even the heaviest off-road-ready vehicles can be swept away by as little as two feet of water rushing over a road.

When water enters a home or building, electric and gas utilities present significant dangers and should be shut off before the water reaches wall outlets, breaker boxes and gas appliances like water heaters.

Another form of electricity, lightning, kills more people annually than tornados or hurricanes. It is impossible to predict and was responsible for 28 fatalities in 2012, according to The National Weather Service.

Large hailstones and straight-line winds can also wreak havoc on persons and property. Hail can range in size from the diameter of a pea to a softball, and sometimes larger. Strong winds can damage homes and trees, and the debris can become a barrage of deadly projectiles. Stay indoors and away from windows when these phenomena are present.

"Tornados are nature's most violent storms," according to http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes. "A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long."

The key to surviving deadly severe weather is being aware and having a plan, and the Air Force's "Be Ready" website,http://www.beready.af.mil, advises to "get a kit, make a plan and be prepared."

The site has a host of resources for planning for any type of natural or even man-made disaster, and even a mobile app for Android devices (the Apple App is in development).

"Before an emergency happens, be sure to sit down with your family and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in an emergency." http://www.beready.af.mil/basicpreparedness advises. "Write down where your family spends the most time, such as work, school, and other places you frequent. Schools, daycare providers, workplaces, and apartment buildings should all have site-specific emergency plans that you and your family need to know about."

The "Be Ready Kids" page, http://www.beready.af.mil/justforkids, offers downloadable, printable and colorable activity sheets for children ages 4-12 that inform them about weather safety and what to do in the event of a natural disaster. Additionally, the Air Force recommends families should discuss the following:

· Escape Routes
· Family Communications
· Utility Shut-off and Safety
· Insurance and Vital Records
· The Elderly and People with Special Needs
· Safety Skills
· Caring for Animals
· Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit


If a natural disaster should strike the area, Team Andrews members should expect an accountability recall soon after. For information about Andrews' operating status, call the Straight Talk Lines at 301-981-5995/2273 or check the Andrews website or social media pages.