AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — “Our severe weather season runs from the middle of April to the third week of June,” said John Harris, Chief Meteorologist for KAMR Local 4 News. “Maybe until the last week of June, and the peak of our severe weather season in a normal year, is right around Memorial Day Weekend. That’s when we’re at the peak of the tornado season.”
This is typically a favorite time of year for many of us here in the Panhandle region. The flowers are blooming, the temperatures are warmer, the weather makes for a nice time to get outside and move around.
But this is also the time of season that we have to be on the lookout for severe weather. It’s a way of life here on the High Plains. Strong thunderstorms, hail storms, straight line winds, and yes, the big daddy of them all, the tornado, all make appearances at times here in the Panhandle region. Most recently on March 13, 2021, we saw eight, yes eight, tornados in an extremely active weather day. Fortunately, there were no reported serious injuries or deaths in the tornadic activity.
Tornadoes are weather phenomenons. They can range from the very weak EF0 tornado, all the way to the extremely destructive, powerful and potentially deadly EF5 tornado on the Fujita scale, which is used to measure the damage done by a tornado.
We hear a lot about tornadoes. They’re strong, powerful, extremely unpredictable, with the ability to change directions in an instant. But when it comes to tornado’s, what are some of the things we should let go in one ear and out the other?
“When it comes to tornadoes, there’s a lot of myths, ” Harris said. “A lot of wives tales out there that a tornado won’t hit here. For example, I’ve heard over the years, that tornados rarely go over the Palo Duro Canyon. I ask, ‘why?’, they say, ‘well, we don’t know why, we just know that it’s never happened.’ And to be honest with you, that is very, very false. Tornadoes are going to go wherever their parent thunderstorm takes them.”
So what do you need to do in case of a tornado or severe weather? Harris said have a plan, watch the weather, have a safety kit, a flashlight with batteries, a NOAA weather radio. Apps for mobile devices, like the KAMR Local4 Weather app, are perfect for our on-the-go lifestyle, and in case of severe storm or tornado, they could save your life.
“I think the first thing is, have a plan so you know how to protect yourself,” Harris said. “Know that we are in severe weather season, so definitely that it could occur. But as far as on the actual day of a thunderstorm or weather event, watch the weather. Watch Chris Martin in the morning, he’s going to give you a good idea of what we expect later in the day. Watch us of course throughout the afternoon and the evening, and, if a tornado watch is issued, just know that if there’s a tornado watch being issued, there’s a reason for it. That means there could be thunderstorms that may develop later on and could produce a tornado.”
Another factor in this spring and summer season that lays the foundation for strong storms in the Panhandle area, the warm weather. The most important ingredient in a thunderstorm’s recipe.
“The main ingredient for a thunderstorm is heat. And that’s one reason why typically, the morning thunderstorms, while some of them can be severe, it’s mainly the afternoon hours when we have that heat being generated, thunderstorms can become very strong or severe.”
Harris said to enjoy the warm weather and temperatures that the spring and summer seasons bring, just be sure to take all the necessary precautions, to keep you and your family safe during severe weather season.
For more severe weather discussion, including what it takes to put a weather broadcast together, watch the full interview with Chief Meteorologist John Harris below.
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