AUSTIN, Texas - 2021 is moving fast! The temperatures are going up, the bluebonnets are blooming and spring is in the air. That also means that severe weather season is fast approaching for central Texas and the central great plains.
We’re finally into the middle of March and the first potential severe weather outbreak is expected in the central plains. The severe weather outbreak – expected over the weekend in northwest Texas and western Oklahoma – is expected to be a low-end, slight to enhanced risk severe event. Even still, low-end risks are good warm-ups for the busier, more potent severe weather that’s possible later this year.
Austin is certainly at the southern end of the classic borders of "Tornado Alley" and therefore misses out on the majority of the worst severe weather, though it certainly happens. Last year around five tornadoes were confirmed in the Austin viewing area alone and gusty winds, flash flooding, lightning, and hail are certainly no strangers to spring weather in Texas.
Texas’ severe thunderstorm intensity usually peaks in late April and early May, though severe storms are possible all year round. It’s important to review your severe weather plan now and make sure safe places in your house are clear just in case you need them.
So what is a safe space? A severe weather-safe space in your house is a room as far away from the exterior walls of your house or apartment. Most commonly these are closets, bathrooms, or under-stair storage spaces. Most of the time these are on the first floor, though any space in a basement will work even better.
The traditional ‘storm cellar’ in movies or in Oklahoma is the best bet to stay completely safe, though they’re not 100% required. Many in Oklahoma, including during the infamous EF-5 Moore Tornado of 2013, have survived direct hits without tornado or storm cellars by taking these safe-space precautions.
Central Texas is, of course, much different than Oklahoma. Our storms tend to cause a lot more rain, hail, and wind rather than tornadoes. That doesn’t mean that the Oklahoma thunderstorms are more dangerous and it is important to remember is that even non-tornadic thunderstorms can be lethal in their own right.
In addition to the tornado safe place and safety plan, a flash flood safety plan could be very useful in some parts of central Texas. A flash flood plan differs significantly since it’s almost entirely opposite the tornado plan. For flash flooding, a rally point at a well-known high-elevation landmark should be designated in case floodwaters rise to a point that it’s too dangerous to friends or family to remain in place.
Having a severe weather plan may be stressful to have, but a well-thought-out one can be very important and could save lives during an emergency.
Texas weather is famously erratic. February is a perfect example bouncing from 80s to 20s with ice and snow in between! Unfortunately, that could lead directly to a potent severe weather season with a whole different kind of weather threat. It’s important to stay ready for all of it.
FOX 7 Austin Meteorologists update the forecast on-air, online, and on social media. You can also receive updates by downloading the FOX 7 Austin WAPP.