Part 2 of our weather survival series explores several techniques you can use to detect severe weather without power or technology, increasing your preparation time and chances of survival long before the threat is imminent.
If you missed it be sure to read Weather Preparedness Part 1: The Top 4 Killers where we covered the often underestimated weather killers and how to survive them should you find yourself stranded and away from adequate shelter.
Watch the sky, not your smart phone
Our increasingly technology-obsessed culture has created a deep reliance on gizmos and gadgets to make daily life more predictable. This includes weather forecasting and extreme weather alerting.
However, in a survival situation you may find your self with low- or no technology. No weather radio broadcasting updates every hour or smart phones giving the latest weather conditions.
But with the right observational knowledge and a little practice, you’ll be able to confidently identify threatening weather situations with your five senses alone. These skills can give you critical time you need to prepare and may just save your life.
Weather is largely determined by where you live. Awareness of your geography is the first and most important step in understanding what kinds of weather threats to expect, and when to expect them.
These can include:
- Hurricanes along gulf and seaboard states
- Blizzards in the northern and eastern states
- Flash Flooding in central states, especially along rivers
- Tornadoes in the central and southern plains
2. Time of Day, Time of Year
You don’t need to become an expert on weather hazards, but a little knowledge can go a long way in survival situations.
Most thunderstorms, and consequently tornadoes, occur between 2:00 and 6:00 PM during the months of April, May, and June. Whatever the threat for your area, you should be especially vigilant during these periods.
If you live in Tornado Alley and see towering cumulus on a Spring afternoon, internal warning bells should be sounding.
3. Read the Wind
- Instability in the atmosphere (cold air over warm air)
- Humidity (the fuel)
- “Lift” (the ignition source) which usually comes in the form of a cold or warm front.
The key ingredient in all of this is humidity. Thunderstorms can’t form without deep levels of moisture in the atmosphere. You’ve probably noticed that thunderstorms tend to break out on hot, humid days. This is why.
Since most of the humidity in the continental U.S. comes from the Gulf of Mexico, the discerning survivalist will know that days with a steady southerly wind are indications of thunderstorm potential within the next 12-24 hours.
4. Read the Sky
There are many books and free resources on the Internet to help you identify sky phenomena. But the general rule is this: vertically growing clouds = bad weather. The taller the cloud, the worse the weather. In the case of severe storms, you should actually be able to see the cloud growing skyward in real-time.
Worth special mention is if rotation is present in the cloud you are observing. Any type of horizontal rotation along the base of a thunderstorm, also known as ‘wall cloud’, is particularly hazardous because it is the precursor to tornadoes.