When I lived on the Gulf coast of Florida, hurricanes were the biggest weather threat, but with days of advance warning, one can almost always evacuate in time to avoid loss of life. I've been in central Alabama for 25 years and tornadoes are a more serious threat here, as they can drop out of the sky with only minutes or no warning, especially in the springtime.
On April 8,1998, 32 people were killed here in my county, in a F5 rated tornado.
On April 27, 2011, 200 people were killed across the southeast, 131 of them in Alabama, 20 of those in my county, so you better believe we pay attention to watches and warnings. These deaths occurred maybe 10 miles from my home, yet my neighborhood only sustained major tree loss and some structural damages.
A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a tornado to occur. I notice overcast skies and changing warm and cool breezy winds.
A warning is issued when a tornado is sighted, either visually or on Doppler radar. You need to get to the lowest place in a building, away from windows
. A friend of mine saved her toddler and herself by clinging to a toilet as her house disintegrated around them. Brick houses can be reduced to a pile of splinters and rubble. Mobile homes and campers are not safe in a tornado. You may have seen the video from Texas of 18 wheelers being tossed hundreds of feet into the air like confetti.
Twice in recent years, we've been travelling on a interstate, heading home into areas we knew were under watches and warnings, thanks to an app on our phones. We then referred to live weather radar maps on my iPad to determine when to get off the road to avoid driving into a storm.
All this to say I'm not spending the spring months hiding in my basement, but just keeping "weather aware" as our local meteorologists urge, by whatever means available.