|Courtesy: Georgia Farm Bureau|
Severe weather can pop up in the field with minimal warning, leaving little time to prepare. High winds, severe thunderstorms and tornados are all things farmers need to keep a watchful eye to the sky for while working in their field.
“Thunderstorms can form quite rapidly, within several minutes. Tornados usually come about after strong storms have formed and organized into "supercells". This organizational process can occur over tens of minutes but can sometimes take up to an hour or more,” said Greg Carbin, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.
While the central plains of America are nicknamed “Tornado Alley”, these deadly twisters are not limited to any one region. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States average over 1,200 tornados each year. A distant second on the list is Canada, averaging 100 tornados per year. Tornados most commonly form from April to July; however they can occur at any time of year with the right conditions.
“If shelter is unavailable, persons should attempt to move away from the storm. Know where the storms are in relation to your position and be prepared to leave any open area without adequate shelter in the event a tornado is spotted,” said Carbin.
If you find yourself in an open field, stop the machine you’re operating and get out. Lie in a low area or ditch away from the machine. Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect from flying debris. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your machine. A tornado’s speed and direction are deceptive, shifting constantly. Know which buildings near your field can offer the best protection, such as a building with a basement or a sturdy interior space in a barn. It’s important to stay away from the outside walls of the shelter you seek.
While thunderstorms are less destructive, NOAA reports an average of 54 people die in the United States from a lightning strike. Carbin says farmers should watch for increasingly warm, humid and cloudy conditions when anticipating a thunderstorm.
“If lightning is observed, head for better shelter. Lightning will not pose much of threat if you can remain in a vehicle,” said Carbin.
In an open field, find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place is not subject to flooding. If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees. If you have no shelter, make yourself the smallest target by squatting low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Minimize contact with the ground, and place your hands on your knees with your head between them when your skin tingles or your hair stands on end. If you are in a tractor or other vehicle during an electrical storm, stay put. Vehicles often provide better protection than lying exposed in open fields.
Have a plan when severe weather is possible. Check weather reports before planning work activities. Make sure you have a way of receiving weather information while you work, especially at remote locations. You can download weather apps for a smart phone or use a weather radio band inside your machine.