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DFW weather: What to do before, during and after a severe storm

In the event of severe weather threats, it's important to be prepared -- and to know which steps to take to get there

DALLAS — Listen, we know North Texans are no strangers to severe weather. But it never hurts for a refresher course when storms are in the forecast, right?

That in mind, there are indeed a number of things you can do before storms arrive -- as well as during and after any severe weather -- to help make sure you're prepared for whatever Mother Nature may have in store.

Let's run down a reminder of those things here.

What to do before the storms hit

1. Make a plan. Talk with your family or coworkers about where you will go during extreme weather. Know the safest place in your home or office.

2. Prepare an emergency supply kit. This kit should have a number of items, including water (a gallon per person per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight with extra batteries, prescriptions, first aid supplies, a charger and a backup battery.

3. Charge your phone(s) and fill up your gas tank.

4. Put away any items in your yard or on your patio that could blow away. Cover any items you can't move that could be damaged by hail or falling limbs.

5. Download the WFAA app and sign up for automated severe weather alerts so you know when to take cover.

6. Check your insurance policies. The Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) recommends you ensure your auto, homeowners or renters, flood and wind policies are active, as they can be essential for storm recovery. Document the conditions of your home and car with your cell phone camera.

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What to do if you find yourself on the road when a storm hits

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth shared the following tips if you find yourself on the road during a storm: 

1. Never stop under bridges or overpass to protect yourself from hail -- bridges don't actually provide protection from wind-driven hail, and your parked car will only block traffic, potentially leading to accidents on the road.

2. Seek shelter in a strong, sturdy building if possible. 

3. Do not drive or walk through standing water.

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What to know during a storm: What's the difference between a watch and a warning?

A WATCH means a storm is being monitored. 

Depending on the watch issued, a watch is posted when weather conditions are favorable for the development for either severe thunderstorms, tornadoes or flash flooding. 

Tornado Watches and Severe Thunderstorm Watches are issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Predication Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and usually for a time period of several hours. 

Flood Watches are issued by local National Weather Service offices, and for periods of time ranging from hours to days.

When a watch is issued for your area, it's important to come up with a plan of action. Where would you go if a warning is issued?

When a WARNING is issued, it's time to put your plan into action. 

When a Tornado Warning is posted, that's because a tornado has either been spotted or detected on radar by meteorologists. 

When a Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued, 1-inch size hail and/or 58 mph+ wind gusts have been reported or detected by radar. 

A Flash Flood Warning is urgent; if one gets issued for your area, rapid rises of creeks, streams and rivers are possible.

A Flood Warning is issued for a slow rise of a creek or river into "flood stage." Typical flood-prone areas or flood plains now have standing or flowing water.

If your area is under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or Tornado Warning, it is time to take shelter in a lower-level, interior room away from windows.

When a Flash Flood Warning is issued and your area is flooding or prone to flooding, it's time to seek higher ground.

After the storm has passed

The first step is to ensure you are in a safe place. Either stay where you are, depending on your surroundings, leave the area for a safer one -- and communicate with your family and friends to let them know your location and if you are safe.

If your home or car has suffered damage, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.

Assess damages to your property carefully, ICT says. Especially pay attention for downed power lines, debris or flooding. Document any damage you come across.

If possible, the ICT recommends you make immediate repairs that could mitigate damage -- and keep your receipts for reimbursement.

Finally, if you do have to have repairs made to your house, watch out for potential fraud, particularly people who ask for money up front, promise quick fixes, or say they will take care of your deductible.

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