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Stay weather aware

OPINION by Mark Gregory | February 26, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Today marks the start of Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Arkansas which, considering we started the year out with an EF1 tornado, would almost seem like an afterthought -- but it shouldn't be.

According to the National Weather Service's Severe Weather Awareness Week website, in Arkansas, tornadoes tend to be the most numerous when La Niña conditions -- cooler than average water along the equator in the Pacific Ocean -- exist. Three of the four most active years were La Niña years. In two of these years, 1999 and 2008, tornadoes started early -- January/February.

What does that bode for 2023? Well, currently La Niña conditions are in place, according to the Weather Service.

"While La Niña is in the process of weakening, it is still around and that is concerning. This is because three of the four most active years for tornadoes in Arkansas featured La Niña. In April and May of 2011, there were 67 tornadoes and record flooding," the Weather Service says.

"It is something to keep in mind moving into this spring." No kidding; we've already had nine tornadoes across the state during the first two months of the year, including the one in northern Garland County that caused damage to the Jessieville School District campus and the surrounding area.

How quickly can the weather change? Let's take Friday as an example. According to the National Weather Service, in the 24-hour period ending at 7 p.m. Friday, 3 to more than 4 inches of rain was dumped in a narrow swath that went through Hot Springs.

Friday's deluge led to flooded roadways, including one motorist who had to take refuge on the top of their vehicle until they could be rescued by firefighters, along with numerous wrecks throughout the county.

Entergy Arkansas Inc. issued a news release earlier this week urging Arkansans to prepare in the case of severe weather that are worth noting. One is to assemble an emergency kit of basic supplies. That includes water, non-perishable food, baby supplies, pet food and medicine, along with a first-aid kit, phone chargers -- solar, if possible, a NOAA weather radio, extra cash, spare clothing, sleeping bags and the like. My personal favorite: a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities. It's one of those things you don't think much about until a pipe is gushing water into your home.

The Weather Service is putting out a public information statement each day discussing a particular subject.

The topics being covered this week are Monday, Flooding; Tuesday, Lightning; Wednesday, Tornadoes; Thursday, Severe Thunderstorms; Friday, Watches and Warnings; and Saturday, Storm Reports. You can see in-depth information about each by visiting

Today is sort of the introduction, but it bears thinking carefully about what the Weather Service says:

"During Severe Weather Awareness Week, the National Weather Service is asking people to think about where they would go when severe weather threatens. So, if a Tornado Warning was issued, people should know where to go for safety without hesitation.

"In general, the safest place is a building on a permanent foundation on the lowest floor in an interior room. The idea is to put as many walls between yourself and the outdoors."

Take a few minutes when the weather is not threatening outside to take a look around your house and think, "What would you do? Where would you go? How would you get your family and pets there?" Don't think in terms of the sunny, warm weather around you. Think in terms of trying to do it in the dead of night, with rain pounding down and the wind howling around you.

It might make the difference some day, for you and your family.

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