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Colorado's extreme climate: Don't get caught off guard

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- To many people summer means having fun in the sun, but that fun can end quickly when one is not prepared for the ever-changing Colorado weather.

With hot summer days comes the increased chance of thunderstorms. According to the National Weather Service website, there is an average of 53 lightning fatalities every year in the U.S.

The American Red Cross website offers many thunderstorm preparation tips which include the following:

· Learn about your local community's emergency warning system for severe thunderstorms.
· Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
· Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that may break due to strong winds or hail.
· Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches.
· Consult your local fire department if you are considering installing lightning rods.
· Put together an emergency preparedness kit.

Tornados are another severe summer weather threat that torments the eastern Colorado plains. Tornados can give very little warning, spawn rapidly, attain wind speeds of more than 300 mph and travel 70 mph while leaving a path of destruction.

Some tornado preparation and safety tips from the American Red Cross include the following:

· During any storm, listen to local news or a National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
· Know your community's warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
· Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
· Practice periodic tornado drills so everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
· Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency website.
· Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged tree limbs.
· Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
· Watch for tornado danger signs like:
      · Dark, greenish clouds
      · Cloud of debris
      · Large hail
      · Funnel cloud
      · Roaring noise

Flash floods are another natural hazard in Colorado people should be aware of. Flash floods tend to occur from May through September, and are usually caused by thunderstorms that are out of sight and hearing range of the storm.

Here are some tips offered by American Red Cross one can follow to not be caught off guard by a flash flood:

· Be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.
· When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
· Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off of your feet.
· If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
· Keep children out of the water. They are curious and often lack judgment about running water or contaminated water.
· Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood danger.
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