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Philadelphia Area Weather
Are you prepared for severe weather season?
April 5, 2001


In the United States alone, hundreds of people die every year from effects of severe thunderstorms, whether it be lightning, hail, strong winds or tornadoes. Most of these deaths occur in the Central and southern parts of the United States, but unfortunately 1/4 of them occur in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, probably because of lack of education from the effects of these violent storms. Tornadoes and any type of convective thunderstorm can occur year-round, but they are more common during the spring and early summer. These are all objectives to why people in our part of the country think severe weather is not a big problem. The fact is, it's bigger than you think.

The objective of the $40 million dollar program established in 1992 by the federal government was to alert people to get to safety to protect lives and save property. This program is NOAA weather radio, a unique, one-of-a-kind device that will alert you to impending severe weather. The National Weather Service, a branch of the federal government monitors weather situations 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, year-round to provide accurate forecast and fast warning information that is transmitted through these small $40.00 or less radios.

The main excuse for why people don't have NOAA weather radios in our area is, we never get any bad weather like tornadoes. Yeah, true for the most part, because in the Central states, tornadoes are almost a way of life, and these NOAA weather radios are common devices out there. This kind of attitude expressed in our area could lead to an increase in death each year from not only weather, but other types of hazardous emergencies. The fact is, the Delaware valley are recieves, on average, 1 to 2 tornadoes every year, and numerous more severe thunderstorms with large hail and damaging wind speeds. Even though these numbers are slim compared to other parts of the country, that does not mean your home should be left out of an extra shield of protection. In fact, these radios should be much of a part as a preparedness as smoke detectors. In fact, a recent study by the National Weather Service showed that NOAA weather radios are more likely to save lives than a smoke detector in a one year period.

Even if no severe weather hits, NOAA weather radios are unique because through they carry messages from the FCC's emergency alert system which transmits valuable information on other natural hazards such as nuclear accidents, tsunamis and oil/gas spills, making it the single source for the most comprehensive emergency information available to the public.

Let's go back in time to late May 1998 when a large area of thunderstorms developed over Pennsylvania. After night, residents of Lyons, Berks county rested back to a night of television and relaxation after dinner. What they didn't know that a super-cell thunderstorm was headed their way and a few minutes later, the calmness was interrupted by loud thunder and a strong tornado which destroyed part of this small community and injured 12 people. Residents said they had no warning on TV or radio. When asked after the destruction whether they had a NOAA weather radio, most of them said no, but a few said yes. Actually, 2 minutes before touchdown, the residents were warned of the impending twister and had time to seek shelter in a basement, sparing a few lives, but ultimately not enough for the 12 people who were seriously injured.

NOAA weather radio doesn't only provide tornado information, but second-by-second warning information for any type of weather or natural hazard for a specific location, whether it be a section of a county or even narrowed down to town and time of strike. Think of it as an extra insurance policy, hopefully not be used, but just there in case. In fact, a few days after the tornado hit, word had spread of this radio and they flew off the shelves at nearby Radio shacks. That is good, because everyone who bought that radio now has an upper-hand to emergency situations from people who don't. Worried about getting information from far away locations, no problem. With new technology, the radio will only alert you if the storm effects your immediate county.

So in closing, why not spend an extra $20, $30 or $40, guarenteed it will be there just in case. And hey, just press one button and you get the official National Weather service forecast. But, in emergency situations, it just might save your lives, just like hundreds others who credit being alive to the purchase of a NOAA weather radio.

To find out more about this service, click here.

Bill Deger,

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