National Weather service urges caution, preparedness
Tornado season descends upon Hopkins County, as the area has recently been under a tornado watch with a potential for severe weather events, according to the National Weather Service.
A tornado watch was issued on Saturday, May 18 for Hopkins County.
Throughout Monday, May, 20, the NWS predicted severe storm conditions could develop in Hopkins County along the Interstate 20 corridor with tornado conditions possible along the Red River area.
“We’re a little bit more active than last year up here in North Texas,” NWS meteorologist Brian Hoeth said.
For Texas, the peak months of tornado occurrence are between April and June, and the NWS reports Texas experiences an average of 137 tornadoes per year with approximately eight tornado-related deaths every year.
Hoeth, forecasting tornadoes is difficult.
“It looks like we are…going to continue to see showers and storms, but we can’t tell whether or not it’s [tornadic] as far as a long-range outlook,” he said. “Even on a daily basis, the most heads up you’re ever going to get… this is a real threat; you need to take cover now. We try to aim for a 30-minute lead time on that.”
It’s for exactly this reason the NWS recommends tuning in to local radio or television stations that broadcast local NOAA Weather Warning Alerts. Since tornado and other weather conditions can change quickly, it is important to be informed and up-to-date.
A tornado watch Hoeth says, indicates the environment’s condition could produce a tornado. A tornado warning indicates that a tornado has touched down or is about to touch down, Hoeth said.
Tornadoes need specific conditions to form, Hoeth said, primarily a boundary. The boundary could be “a warm front or a cold front, or in West Texas…a difference in dew points.”
These are the same conditions that create thunderstorms, Hoeth said, “but to get a tornado, you also need spin in the atmosphere. You need your winds to be turning as you go up in the atmosphere.”
However, Hoeth stresses, this is not the same as gusts of wind on the ground.
“They’re two totally different things. You can get a wind gust any day. In fact…you can have gusty winds with no chance of tornadoes in the area,” he said.
In case of a tornado, the NWS recommends to act quickly if the NWS issues a warning or if you suspect a tornado is in your area. Pick an interior room in your home on the lowest floor where there are no windows. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe.
Mobile home residents are recommended to leave their homes and move to a safe shelter, the NWS says. If a safe shelter is not available, take cover in a ditch or low-lying area and cover your head with your hands.