AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Travis County has a lot of transplants, myself included. If you’re not from Central Texas, here are some things you need to know about severe weather.
We don’t have weather sirens
Many parts of the country rely on sirens to let you know a tornado might be headed your way. But if you just moved here, don’t wait for that familiar noise.
The University of Texas at Austin has sirens that are tested at least once a month, but the City of Austin does not have sirens.
City officials say they don’t have the sirens because they tend to cause confusion, drawing people outside instead of indicating that people need to take shelter. They also said with the technology we have today, including cell phones and weather radios, the sirens are outdated and aren’t the best way to share information with people.
You can read more about why some Central Texas cities and counties don’t have sirens here:
- Why didn’t the tornado sirens go off in the Austin area during Monday’s tornado warning?
- What are pros, cons of outdoor emergency sirens? Texas cities discuss
You need a weather radio
Because we don’t have those sirens you might have grown up with in Austin, meteorologists strongly recommend getting a weather radio, which will work even if cell service goes down.
Meteorologist Nick Bannin spoke with Bruce Jones with Midland Weather Radios about the importance of the device. You can buy a weather radio at most major retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon, etc.).
It’s not just the rural parts of Central Texas that are in jeopardy
It’s not just rural parts of Central Texas that are subject to the dangers of severe weather. Even just last month, Austin was included in a tornado warning and was in the path of dangerous storm conditions.
Travis County, the most populous county in Central Texas, has seen the most tornados in KXAN’s viewing area, followed by Williamson County and Bastrop County.
Austin also ranks 5th in the United States for being at the greatest risk of wildfires. Austin is the only city not in California to make that top 5 list.
We get a lot of lightning
You might not think about Central Texas when you think about the most lightning strikes in the United States but your should. The lightning capital of the U.S. for 2021 goes to Flatonia, which is 65 miles southeast of Austin.
Flatonia has a population of only 1,377, and it is in the southern reaches of Fayette County, the easternmost county in the KXAN viewing area.
Vaisala ranked the lightning capitals of each state. Here are the top five:
- Flatonia, Texas (1,043 lightning strikes per square mile)
- Geneva, Florida (857 strikes per square mile)
- Maurepas, Louisiana (824 strikes per square mile)
- Rentz, Georgia (701 strikes per square mile)
- Batchtown, Illinois (695 strikes per square mile)
Pay attention to counties around you
If you’re new to the area, and you’re seeing coverage on KXAN of a tornado, it’s important to know how close that tornado might be to you.
Now’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the counties around you. If a tornado is on a county line near you, you may only have minutes to get to safety.