Severe Weather

Severe Weather Information

Once the Newton County Communications Center receives notification from the National Weather Service of approaching severe weather, the Center will notify via radio all county fire departments, all police agencies, and the ambulance service. If a Tornado Warning is issued or there is an actual sighting by a trained weather spotter, the emergency sirens will be activated for Newton County.

A test of the emergency siren system will occur at 11:00am the first Saturday of each month for Newton County.

Please do not call the Newton County Communications Center to ask why the sirens are activated. This ties up personnel and telephone lines that may be needed to provide citizens with emergency services. Tune to your local radio station for information concerning severe weather.

Watches and warnings are issued for many different weather conditions, including severe thunderstorms, snow and ice storms, flash floods, freezing temperatures, frost, high temperatures, and high humidity.

Your local weather forecast service will usually provide current information about specific watches or warnings.



A tornado is a violent storm with whirling winds of up to 300 miles per hour. It appears as a funnel shaped cloud, from gray to black in color, which extends to the ground from the base of a thunderstorm. Tornadoes move at an average speed of 30 MPH and generally move from the southwest to northeast. Their direction of travel can be erratic and may change suddenly. These short-lived storms are the most violent of all atmospheric phenomena and the most destructive over a small area. Tornadoes are most likely to occur during the mid-afternoon and evening hours and during the months of April, May, and June. However, they can occur at any time, often with little or no warning.

The National Weather Service broadcasts severe weather conditions on radio, TV, or NOAA Weather Radio. A tornado WATCH means conditions are right for a tornado to occur. A tornado WARNING indicates a tornado has been sighted in the posted area or is visible on radar. A location of the sighting is normally given along with its projected movement.


Tornado watches:

Stay tuned to a local radio or television station or listen to your NOAA Weather Radio
Secure any loose objects outdoors, or move them inside
Survey local structures for the most suitable shelter
Keep watching the sky to the south and southwest. If you see any funnel-shaped clouds, report them immediately to the nearest law enforcement agency and take cover.


Tornado warnings:

A tornado has been spotted near your area or is predicted to come your way. Take shelter immediately. Do not leave shelter until you are sure no further danger exists. Remember, there is no guaranteed safe place during a tornado. However, there are some locations that are better than others.

In a motor vehicle: The least desirable place to be during a tornado is in a motor vehicle. Never try to outrun a tornado in your car. Stop your vehicle and seek shelter elsewhere. Do not get under or next to your vehicle. A ditch or ground depression will help, if a tornado is not nearby.       

At school: Follow the school disaster plan. Stay away from auditoriums, gymnasiums, and other areas with wide, free-span roofs. Go into center hallways and stay away from windows.

Open country: Move away from the tornado's projected path at right angles. Seek shelter in a ditch, ravine, or culvert. Even a low spot in the ground will give you some protection. Stay away from trees and remember to protect your head.

In a residence: The best place to go is the innermost hallway, on the lowest floor. An interior closet is relatively safe; an interior bathroom is even better. Not only does a bathroom have four walls closely tied together, but the plumbing helps hold the structure together. In addition, the bathtub, sink, and toilet help support debris in case the house collapses. One basic rule to follow is to avoid windows. Flying debris causes most of the causualties and the worst kind of flying debris is broken glass. Do not open any windows to equalize pressure when a tornado approaches. If a tornado actually gets close enough for a pressure drop to be experienced, the strong winds have already caused the most significant damage. Opening windows, in fact, may actually increase damage.

In a mobile home: One of the least desirable places to be during a tornado is in a mobile home. If a tornado approaches seek other shelter immediately. Go to a tornado shelter on foot, if possible. Do not drive your car. Do not get under your mobile home; if no other shelter is available, lie down in a ditch or ground depression.



Some thunderstorms can be seen approaching, while others hit without warning. It is important to learn and recognize the danger signs and to plan ahead.

A severe thunderstorm watch is issued by the National Weather Service when the weather conditions are such that a severe thunderstorm (damaging winds 58 miles per hour or more, or hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter or greater) is likely to develop. This is the time to locate a safe place in the home and tell family members to watch the sky and listen to the radio or television for more information.

A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when a severe thunderstorm has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. At this point, the danger is very serious and everyone should go to a safe place, turn on a battery-operated radio or television, and wait for the "all clear" by the authorities.

Learn how to respond to a tornado and flash flood.  Tornadoes are spawned by thunderstorms and flash flooding can occur with thunderstorms. When a "severe thunderstorm warning" is issued, review what actions to take under a "tornado warning" or a "flash flood warning."

Develop an emergency communication plan
In case family members are separated from one another during a thunderstorm (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact". After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.


Before a Storm

Learn the thunderstorm danger signs:

    Dark, towering, or threatening clouds
    Distant lightning and thunder

Have disaster supplies on hand:

    Flashlight with extra batteries
    Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
    First aid kit and manual
    Emergency food and water
    Non-electric can opener
    Essential medicines
    Cash and credit cards
    Sturdy shoes

Check for hazards in the yard

Dead or rotting trees and branches can fall during a severe thunderstorm and cause injury and damage

Make sure that all family members know how to respond after a thunderstorm. Also, teach children how and when to call 9-1-1, police, fire department, and which radio station to tune for emergency information


During a Storm

If indoors:

    Secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture that could blow away or cause damage or injury. Take light objects inside
    Shutter windows securely and brace outside doors
    Listen to a battery operated radio or television for the latest storm information
    Do not handle any electrical equipment or telephones because lightning could follow the wire. Television sets are particularly dangerous at this time.
    Avoid bathtubs, water faucets, and sinks because metal pipes can transmit electricity

If outdoors:

    Attempt to get into a building or car
    If no structure is available, get to an open space an squat low to the ground as quickly as possible. If in the woods, find an area protected by low clump of trees--never stand underneath a single large tree in the open. Be aware of the potential for flooding in low-lying areas
    Crouch with hands on knees
    Avoid tall structures such as towers, tall trees, fences, telephone lines, or power lines
    Stay away from natural lightning rods such as golf clubs, tractors, fishing rods, bicycles, or camping equipment
    Stay from rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water
    If you are isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike), bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. A position with feet together and crouching while removing all metal objects is recommended. Do not lie flat on the ground.

If in a car:

    Pull onto the shoulder of the road away from any trees that could fall on the vehicle.
    Stay in the car and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rains subside.
    Avoid flooded roadways.

Estimating the Distance from a Thunderstorm
Because light travels much faster than sound, lightning flashes can be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard. Estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm by counting the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by five.
Important: You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. Knowing how far away a storm is does not mean that you're in danger only when the storm is overhead.
Hail is produced by many strong thunderstorms. Hail can be smaller than a pea or as large as a softball and can be very destructive to plants and crops. In a hailstorm, take cover immediately. Pets and livestock are particularly vulnerable to hail, so bring animals into a shelter.


After a Storm

Check for injuries:
A person who has been struck by lightning does not carry an electrical charge that can shock other people. If the victim is burned, provide first aid and call emergency medical assistance immediately. Look for burns where lightning entered and exited the body. If the strike caused the victim's heart and breathing to stop, give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until medical professionals arrive and take over. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.
Report downed utility wires. Drive only if necessary. Debris and washed-out roads may make driving dangerous.

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