When you grow up in Tornado Alley, you learn at an early age to pay attention to the weather. You also learn how to survive it.
While growing up in Ponca City, I became familiar with the signs of the approach of severe weather.
Things such as:
* Birds changing the volume and amount of their chirping, increasing along with their numbers as they rapidly switched locations.
* Wind speed, direction shifts and temperature drops, often .
* Rolling clouds, that changed color, turning almost black or exhibiting a dark green cast, which indicated hail.
* Rumbling thunder in the distance, then moving into the immediate area.
* Lightning, frequent and often brilliant, especially the nighttime electrical shows.
* That weird, spooky music the local radio station always played when storms were in the forecast.
* The voice of the local radio weather expert, giving updates.
* Sirens bellowing out a warning that a dangerous situation was approaching.
And then … the dash to safety.
Sometimes it was the lower area of the cafeteria in the school building nearby.
Sometimes it was a closet.
If there was time, or if we were on that side of town, a trip to a longtime family friend’s storm shelter, known as “the cellar,” or “the fraidy hole.”
At the school, there were dozens of people, from small children to elderly couples, all who lived within a few blocks of the building. It was loud and generally hot.
In the closet, it was cramped and rather uncomfortable. Luckily, that was a last resort.
The fraidy hole was the place to be. It could hold about a dozen people. Unless things really got nasty outside, however, there were about six to eight women and children inside, playing games or talking about so-and-so’s family, while the men stood outside with their arms crossed and always looking skyward as they talked about more important things … fishing, automobiles, championship wrestling …
I always felt that if we headed to the fraidy hole, it meant the town was in danger. WE were in danger. And it stayed that way until the all-clear from the sirens, the spooky music on the radio stopped, or the clouds rolled away.
If you grew up in Oklahoma, you may have experienced something similar. It all came back to me recently when I read Mary Phillips’ “Early-day tornado shelters known as ‘storm caves’ “ http://tinyurl.com/85k4t22. Very entertaining.
You also can learn more about Oklahoma’s weather by going to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA and following Bryan Painter’s weather blog on NewsOK.com.
Good information to help keep you safe.
“Have I got news for you.”
Ever heard that phrase? Most of us either have said that, heard it, or done both during our lives. There’s always something we think is important enough to share with others and they with us.
A few years ago, when we established our “know it” communities we offered readers a chance to share news releases, alerts, recognitions and other information (including photos) by sending their items by email to any or all of the five sites:
Many groups and individuals have participated. You can see what they are sending by going to the reader-submitted area (upper right) of each community:
(Note: You can see all of them by going to: http://knowit.newsok.com/)
The instructions also advise that editors at The Oklahoman will consider items submitted for publication in the newspaper. That has happened.
But now, that has been enhanced by using a page, labeled News From You, each Saturday in the Local/State section of the newspaper.
We even include posted blog material.
So how can you get your information to us for consideration?
You can send to the communities, as mentioned above, by following the directions for emailing.
Or, you can send email to Metro reporters Vallery Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org), Matt Patterson (email@example.com), Jane Glenn Cannon in Norman (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Diana Baldwin in Edmond (email@example.com).
It’s your news to share and be shared.
The worst of it may still be to come, but the annual storm season has arrived in Oklahoma and the region. Are you prepared?
Thunderstorms Monday brought heavy rain, thunder, lightning, high winds and hail to parts of Oklahoma and Texas. But storms were stronger and more violent on Tuesday, when at least two tornadoes struck the Dallas area, causing damage.
On the heels of a mild, warm winter, Oklahoma got an early taste of summer, with temperatures climbing into the 80s as winter wound down, then into the 90s within the first week of spring.
A question on the minds of many Oklahomans and a hot topic of conversation is just how hot will it get this summer? With that comes the thought of how stormy will it be?
So can we prepare for warmer, potentially stormy weather? Absolutely, say weather forecasters and other climatological experts. To that end, we’re put together a package of resource information for just about any related topic you want.
Go to HTTP://KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA/TORNADO-STORM-HEAT-WAVE-INFORMATION and check out the facts, figures, guidelines and historical data on Oklahoma’s weather conditions.
You’ll find such topics as:
* Severe thunderstorms safety rules.
* Protective actions during a thunderstorm.
* What to do in a storm.
* How do thunderstorms form?
* Lightning safety.
* Keeping pets safe.
* Keeping yourself and your family safe.
* Surviving hail.
* Surviving high wind.
* Surviving high heat.
* Tornado facts.
* Myths about tornadoes.
And much, much more.
It’s all in KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA. You can use the link above, or just click on the INFORMATION button.
It can help you stay informed and stay safe.
Pardon my sniff. Sorry about the snort. It may annoy you, but it isn’t the most enjoyable thing for me either.
Since I was a boy (and that’s been a while), I’ve had to deal with allergies and a sinus condition. Not that it’s ever any fun, come this time of year, it’s downright unpleasant.
Yes, I’ve been to medical experts. Yes, I’ve been tested for allergic reactions. Yes, I’ve used an inhaler. Yes, I’ve taken other prescribed medicines. And, yes, I still have sniffles.
I try not to sniff, but it’s just all but impossible. I’ve been told that it’s as much habit as need to sniff. Doesn’t feel that way on my end of the sniff, I can tell you. It helps me breathe when the sinus and allergies kick in.
I try to limit the snorts as much as possible because they can be rather embarrassing if they occur at the wrong time. As in, loud. It’s not like a laugher’s snort. You’d just have to hear it to understand.
When I read that this is expected to be an extremely bad season for allergy sufferers, I just thought about those who have severe respiratory problems during this time. It’s most uncomfortable, and it can be dangerous.
Try holding your finger on one side of your nose and using only one nostril to breathe. After you do so, maybe you’ll appreciate the breathing problems those with allergies and other such situations face. And maybe my little sniffs (and snorts) will be more acceptable.
I promise I’ll try to limit them. Just bear with me. It’s not fun for me either.
To learn more about allergies and how to cope with them, read reports on NewsOK and in KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/FLU-PNEUMONIA-ALLERGIES-OKLAHOMA.
Have you noticed how so many things are on the rise these days? We definitely seem to be in an increase mode.
Start with the weather. Here it is mid-March and we’re experiencing temperatures you would expect in late spring or early summer. Pushing — or passing — 80 degrees. We’ve seen little of the normal winter weather conditions, such as snow or bitter-cold temperatures.
I’m not complaining, you understand. Last year’s January-February snow created some significant problems and I’m happy we didn’t have the same this year. Could this be a start to an extremely hot summer?
So with warmer weather, many people feel like doing a little traveling. But current economic conditions may cause them to do a little thinking before setting out. The increase continues at the gas pump and it doesn’t appear to be slowing.
Many times recently I’ve had to make a trip to a pharmacy, a grocery store, or another such location, only to find on my return that the price board at the filling station has new, higher numbers than were there when I first passed by it. And if you dream that you saw a big jump at the pump, it might be more true than you think. Jumps of a dime or more overnight have not been unusual.
With higher gas prices come higher costs for many other items, such as many of our food products. The experts remind us that the costs of many items are “connected” through transportation expenses. That’s one reason alternative fuels are a hot topic.
If you’re a cable TV subscriber, you may have seen an increase in your bill recently. Someone has to pay for all those major technological breakthroughs and excellent service. Right? Paying more to hear experts say you’re paying more.
As an aside here, you might ask that if you pay less, do you hear less of such expertise? The answer is “yes,” but only because you will lose your service when it’s disconnected.
I mentioned the pharmacy. There actually have been some moves to reduce costs for some prescriptions. In some instances, there have been major moves resulting in substantial reductions in cost. Generic medicines have spurred some strong competition.
Obviously, these and many other price increases hitting at the same time put a strain on our personal finances. We realize prices do go up over time, but how much and how soon they do has a great effect on our lives.
Meanwhile, we’ll have to do some comparative shopping. And you can check out the experts in KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/MONEY-OKLAHOMA for information on how to reduce the effects of price increases. They just might save you a few bucks.
As many Oklahomans discovered today, black ice is dangerous. It can turn what normally would be a smooth ride into a treacherous journey. And the temperature doesn’t even have to be at freezing or below for it to happen.
It’s one thing to see a shiny roadway and know there’s a good possibility of ice. It’s another to see what appears to be a normal, or possibly wet road and not realize that is has black ice until you’re upon it.
Simply put, black ice is a thin layer of ice that forms on roadways and is basically invisible because it takes on the color of the underlying pavement, which is usually black on an asphalt surface. It can form from freezing drizzle, wind-blown snow or freezing condensation. The ice can form even when the temperature is a few degrees above freezing.
So how do you know it’s there? If the roadway appears darker, duller in color, it’s very likely there is black ice present. The obvious sign, of course, is when your tires lose their grip and you slide. You don’t have to be speeding to lose control.
There are some things you can/should do to reduce the possibility of having a problem on black ice:
* First, make sure your seat belt is fastened.
* Drive with your headlights on low beam, even if it’s daytime. This makes your vehicle more visible to those around you.
* Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and those ahead of you.
* Keep your speed down.
* If you come upon a slick spot, take your foot off the gas and don’t slam the brakes. Tap them lightly.
* If you begin to slide, turn the steering wheel the direction you are sliding.
Driving experts also point to these reminders:
* Don’t think you are invincible just because you drive something like a pickup or sport utility vehicle.
*A 4-wheel drive vehicle is great for driving in heavy snow, but you’re on your own on black ice. In fact, the experts say, 4-wheel drive vehicles have no advantage over regular cars when it comes to driving on black ice.
* Make sure your tires have good tread. Worn tires make it much more difficult to drive on black ice. You want plenty of traction between your tires and the road surface.
* Black ice is most commonly found on roads near water (such as lake and rivers), in tunnels and in shady, or rural areas. Bridges and overpasses are also common spots for black ice to form. You probably have seen a sign “Bridge ices before roadway.” That’s because roadways on bridges and overpasses freeze more quickly. Even if you have been cruising down the highway with no problem, an overpass or bridge can be unexpectedly icy.
* And remember that if you have an idea that there may be black ice ahead, downshift to a lower gear before you come to it. The lower gear will force you to drive more slowly and give you better control of your car.
For more information about driving in winter or weather conditions, go to KNOWIT.NEWSOK.COM/SEVERE-WEATHER-OKLAHOMA and check out the resources.
Some parts of Oklahoma got an early dose of winter weather this week, complete with snow.
Crews from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation responded to handle conditions on roadways in northern and northwestern parts of the state.
ODOT officials said crews needed sand and salt in some areas after the weather hit, including plowing areas where snow had accumulated.
That should serve as a reminder to drivers throughout Oklahoma that more winter weather conditions are ahead. A little preparation can go a long way.
Whether it be adjusting your speed for slick spots, especially on bridges and overpasses; making sure your vehicle is winterized; having the proper necessities inside, should you become stranded; or knowing your route, you can be safer.
The experts say:
* Drive for the conditions and plan for extra travel time.
* Take extra care when traveling through work zones during this time.
* Check road conditions before getting out on the roads.
* Stay at least 200 feet behind road-clearing equipment; crews need room to maneuver and can engage plowing or spreading materials without notice.
* Be aware of “black ice,” which looks wet on the roadway, but is actually a thin layer of ice.
To check CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS, call the Department of Public Safety’s ROAD CONDITIONS HOTLINE at 888-425-2385.
For more winter driving tips, recommendations on preparations and more, check out the resources on http://knowit.newsok.com/severe weather and learn how to survive.
Standing in a blustery, cold northern wind on a median at a busy intersection, he held the hand-lettered sign to his chest for drivers in the turn lane to see.
“Lost job. Have family to feed. Can you help?”
He was slightly unkept, but certainly not grungy-looking. His hair, his clothes, his clean-shaven face implied that he still had access to some grooming. But the weary look on his face and the sign indicated, whether honestly or not, that he had needs.
This man was among those seen recently around the city who are looking for assistance from others who will provide it. In many instances, the individual appears in more dire straits.
Sometimes, the person displays a sign that notes he, or she, “will work for food.” Others might be looking for clothing, blankets, or food. Some beg for money.
They may be labeled beggars. They often are referred to as panhandlers. Some just call them needy.
While some people give them anything from loose change to dollars, others offer them food. I’ve known many people who say they have offered to drive them to a cafe or store where they could buy them food, and others who have brought sacks of food to them.
But there also are representatives of churches, organizations and local law enforcement who’ve given them a ride to shelters or food banks.
Oklahoma City has its share of homeless individuals, as well as a segment of its residents that live below the poverty level and others who are in need of assistance. There is a concentrated effort to help these people. If it within your means and your heart to do so, you can help.
If that’s what you would like to do during this holiday season, go to http://knowit.newsok.com/homless-oklahoma and http://knowit.newsok.com/charity-oklahoma to see how you can help.
If you’re going to be on the road during the Thanksgiving holiday, do your part in making it a safe journey.
My friends in law enforcement and public safety remind everyone that Oklahoma roadways will be filled with travelers this week, before, on and after Thanksgiving. They urge extra precautions to keep drivers and passengers safe.
And remember, Thanksgiving starts the holiday season, when you’ll see more people traveling and more people visiting shopping centers and malls, as well as places to eat.
Any of those can lead to increased stress for the driver.
Officials in the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office advise taking a little time to make smart choices about your travel. Alice Collinsworth, OHSO communications manager.
Last year in Oklahoma, the Thanksgiving holiday period ran from 6 p.m. Wed., Nov. 24, to midnight Sunday, Nov. 28. During this time period, 546 crashes were reported. Six people were killed and 327 others were injured, said Alice Collinsworth, OHSO communications manager. Four of the six fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes, she said.
“Law enforcement officers across the state will be out in force during the holiday,” Collinsworth said. “They’ll be watching for drivers who are impaired, who are breaking the speed limit, or who are distracted, and they also will be enforcing seat belt laws. The goal is to save lives and to make sure everyone arrives safely at their holiday destination.”
OHSO also recommends taking these steps for safe travel:
* Make sure all children in your vehicle are placed in age-appropriate car seats and all adults are buckled up.
* If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement, or dial *55 from any cell phone to alert the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
* Plan ahead for inclement weather and make sure your vehicle has appropriate emergency equipment.
* Avoid distractions while driving, such as cell phones and electronic equipment.
* If alcohol is part of your Thanksgiving celebration, plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver.
AAA Oklahoma once again is offering Tipsy Tow services over Thanksgiving to motorists who have partied a bit too much and feel unsafe behind the wheel. The auto club will give the driver and one more person — plus the vehicle -– a free ride home.
AAA’s Tipsy Tow program, free to members and nonmembers alike, will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, and will run until 2 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 28, in metropolitan Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as in Lawton, Shawnee, Enid, Muskogee and Bartlesville.
“Many motorists may think they are okay to drive but research shows that impairment starts with the first drink,” said Chuck Mai, AAA Oklahoma spokesman. “And remember, the first thing to go when you drink is judgment. After drinking, we tend to make less-than-smart decisions -– like going ahead and driving.”
To access Tipsy Tow, call (800) 222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and ask for Tipsy Tow. There are just two restrictions: the tow must be within a 15-mile radius of point of pickup, and there is only one place AAA will take you and your car: home.
For information on Oklahoma road conditions, check The Oklahoman and/or NewsOK.com.
It’s Winter Weather Awareness Day in Oklahoma and a good time to work on your pre-winter preparedness. It won’t be long until the consistent freezing weather, snow and ice will be in the forecast, so make plans now on how to survive them.
Gov. Mary Fallin issued a governor’s proclaimed naming the day. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, National Weather Service and other state and local agencies are sharing information to help the public prepare for the winter season.
State officials said last winter’s blizzards were strong reminders that we need to have our homes and vehicles, as well as our families and pets, ready to meet cold-weather challenges.
Weather officials said that “during the Christmas blizzard, record snowfall required stranded motorists to be rescued by the Oklahoma National Guard, Oklahoma Highway Patrol and local first responders.
“The experience of those stuck in the cold for long hours during the blizzard last winter should drive home the need to always prepare,” OEM Director Albert Ashwood said. “Having a blanket, emergency food and water, a flashlight, a well charged cell phone and a full tank of gas would have made a big difference for many of those awaiting rescue on Oklahoma roadways.”
The state officials remind you that if you have to travel in heavy snow or ice, you should allow extra time and “be particularly cautious on bridges and overpasses as they will be the first to freeze.”
Remember that “travel conditions can rapidly change. Drivers who must travel in these conditions are urged to drive slowly during snow or ice storms and to plan extra time for their travel. ODOT crews report they are ready for this upcoming winter season.
“Statewide, our salt and sand supplies are fully stocked, and more than 500 trucks are available to clear snow and ice from highways and interstates,” ODOT Director of Operations Casey Shell said. “During our clearance operations, we ask that drivers stay at least 200 feet behind our equipment, for both their safety and the safety of our crews.”
At home, be sure you have adequate weather stripping and insulation. Keep your furnace clean and ready to use. Make sure your pipes are protected against freezing temperatures.
“By following some simple tips and monitoring your local weather during times of severe weather, Oklahomans stand their best chance at not becoming a victim,” said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS office in Norman.
He also reminds everyone that information regarding hazardous winter weather, including watches and warnings, is available on the NWS website at http://www.weather.gov, on NOAA Weather All Hazards Radio and on local radio and television stations.
You can sign up to receive OEM’s weather alerts and receive NWS watches and warnings on your cell phone or other email address at http://www.ok.gov/OEM/.
Go to knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma to find more ways to get ready for winter.