Last updateWed, 28 Jan 2015 2pm

Missouri State Highway Patrol provides safety tips for severe weather

Spring has arrived, and along with it, varying temperatures and weather patterns resulting in thunderstorms, flash flooding, and tornadoes. The Missouri State Highway Patrol offers these severe weather safety tips:

Thunderstorms can include heavy rains, thunder, lightning, tornadoes, straight-line winds, flash floods, and hail. They can form quickly. A typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. ALL thunderstorms are dangerous. When they occur, pay attention to weather reports and instructions.

Tornados can appear at any time of day, any day of the year. Tornados may form during a thunderstorm. When a Tornado Watch is issued, this means to stay alert and aware. Watch the sky and listen to weather reports.

A Tornado Warning means seek shelter immediately. An interior room without windows on the lowest floor is the safest shelter location. Do not seek shelter in a cafeteria, gymnasium, or other large open room because the roof might collapse. Immediately leave a mobile home to seek shelter in a nearby building. Overpasses are not safe. The construction of an overpass can create a dangerous wind tunnel effect. If you are driving, you should stop and take shelter in a nearby building. If you are driving in a rural area, drive away from the tornado to the closest building. If you cannot get away, seek shelter in a roadside ditch. Protect yourself from flying debris by covering your head with your arms, a coat, or a blanket. Be prepared to move quickly in case the ditch fills with water.

Heavy rain can cause flooding, and spring showers will certainly spawn flash flooding. Never drive through fast-moving waters; even a small amount of fast-moving water can sweep a slow-moving vehicle off the roadway. If your vehicle becomes stuck in rising water, get out quickly and move to higher ground. Respect barriers or barricades put in place by MoDOT. They are there to protect you; don’t go around them!

Widely varying temperatures can leave roadways or bridge floors covered with frost. Even though roads appear to be clear, it is important to slow down and watch for slick areas, especially early in the morning. Temperature changes also cause fog to develop. Drivers need to slow down, turn on their headlights, and be prepared to stop in foggy conditions.

Weather conditions requiring the use of windshield wipers are usually those that affect visibility. Motorists are reminded that state law requires them to turn on their vehicle’s headlights any time they are using the windshield wipers. It only takes a second to turn on your vehicle’s headlights. But, that second could make you more visible to other drivers and prevent a traffic crash.

No matter what the forecast: If you’re going to be on the water, you need a safe boating plan. During severe weather, stay off the water. Currents become swift and dangerous. Fixed objects and fast moving water are a bad combination: Don’t go boating in these conditions. Floating debris can easily capsize or sink a boat. After heavy rains, lakes have more debris to watch for. Boaters should always keep an eye on the weather. Hypothermia is also a concern due to rapid weather changes associated with spring. Make sure to take extra clothes and remember that the dangers of hypothermia increase exponentially when temperatures drop. Fog on our lakes and rivers is common during this time of year and results in low visibility. When visibility decreases, boaters need to slow down. No matter what the season: Watch for changes in the weather. When you hear the thunder in the distance, respond to it. Don’t wait until you see the lightning. Get to shore ... Get to safety.

When dangerous weather approaches, whether you are on land or on the water, implement your safety plan, postpone activities, monitor the weather, and get to a safe place.

In support of "The Drive To ZERO Highway Deaths," the Patrol encourages motorists to protect themselves and their passengers by making sure everyone in the vehicle is properly restrained in a seat belt or child restraint. Watercraft operators should ensure that everyone in the vessel is wearing an approved life jacket. Click It 4 Life And Wear It!