Severe Weather Guide for Nebraska Tourists
Nebraska Weather Information
The weather in Nebraska can jump to both extremes. In the summer, it can get quite hot (100 degrees is not out of the question), and in the winter, it commonly dips below zero.
People who are from here have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to the weather. It has literally snowed one day, and been 75 degrees the next. We have also learned to pay more attention to the sky than to the weather man. The last big storm that hit Omaha was predicted as a light thunderstorm by Meteorologists; That was 5 days ago, and 3,900 people are still without power.
Nebraska offers the traveller much in the way of attractions, natural beauty and Historic landmarks. The Nebraska Terrain ranges from flat land prairie, to Mountainous regions in the Panhandle. When visiting Nebraska, or travelling through, it is wise to know what to look for to indicate there may be trouble. Although, normal thunderstorms can quickly become tornadoes since we are in the area of the Country where East meets West. Cozad Nebraska is home to the 100th Meridian. The exact center of the U.S..Tornadoes in Nebraska develop along a dryline (That separates the warm, moist air to the east from the hot, dry air from the west.) This normally occurs in the afternoon, although, late night and early morning tornadoes occur as well.
What I can offer you is advice. I am not a Meteorologist, just a lifelong resident of Nebraska. I'm wrong sometimes too. (Don't let that get around, my reputation is at stake.) I'll start by dispelling some myths that are common regarding tornadoes.
Myth: Area's near water (lakes, rivers) and mountains are safe from tornadoes.
Fact: Omaha Nebraska, and Council Bluffs Iowa are separated by the Missouri River. Tornadoes have been known to not only cross the river, but intensify as they do. Mountains are no safer. In the 1980's a tornado left a path of destruction UP and DOWN a 10,000 foot mountain.
Myth: Windows should be opened when a tornado approaches:
Fact: This has been proven to be false. Forget the windows, don't go anywhere near them. Seek shelter.
Myth: Stopping under an interstate overpass will protect you in a tornado:
Fact:tornadoes whipping under overpasses has even been filmed on seveal occasions. If there is no other choice, then it IS safer than being out in the open, but will not completely protect you.
Myth: The Southwest corner of the basement is the best place to seek shelter.
Fact: The part of the basement that is toward an approaching storm (often, the Southwest) is the least safe place to be. Houses are normally shifted to the Northeast and then lifted from the foundation.
Now...Look to the sky. As I mentioned earlier, folks from the Midwest watch the sky without thinking twice about it. Half the time we don't even realize we are doing it. This is a non-threatening, beautiful Nebraska sky.
Ominous Weather Signs
Storms of any kind can move in quickly. Some of the faster moving tornadoes can speed in at 75 MPH. That's not the wind velocity, that is how fast they are approaching. Most people, no matter where they are from, recognize Thunderstorm clouds.
Going from bad to worse
I cannot stress enough that tornadoes can Lurk above thunderstoms and drop down at any moment, and storms can move very fast. Remember that even if there is not a tornado, flash floods are the #1 weather killer, followed by lightening. So, don't take chances in a storm. Take cover and have a weather radio available. If the Storm does drop a tornado, MOST of the time, the sirens will sound. (the last Omaha tornado hit 9 minutes before the sirens sounded.) I'd like to close with some video of an actual Nebraska Tornado. Remember, watch the sky. The darker, and greener (we call it "pea green") the clouds get, the more we worry. Tornadoes can be hidden in rain, or debris, so look carefully.