Dear Zadok,

When I was a kitten, a tornado tore through the neighborhood I was visiting. It got eerily quiet outside. Then the sky turned green. My littermates and I climbed into an empty bathtub to stay safe. After that, it got super loud.

I talked about extreme weather with Nathan Santo Domingo. He’s a weather scientist at Washington State University.

He told me that how to prepare depends on where you live. Different places have different kinds of extreme weather.

“Keep an eye on the forecast and know what’s coming your way,” Santo Domingo said. “Be smart about what happens in your area.”

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we don’t worry about tornadoes. But we do have wind storms that knock down giant trees. Or short snaps of intense heat. We also have times when fire sweeps through our forests. That turns the air smoky and dangerous for miles.

I wasn’t sure what extreme weather you have in Kenya, so I looked it up. It seems like you have times of intense heat, too. You might have floods or drought—or other kinds of weather that local experts can tell you about.

A drought is when a place has less rain or snow than it normally does. Drought can affect how much water is available for the environment and for people.

No matter where we are on the planet, extreme weather happens more often now because our climate is changing. Once you know what extreme weather happens near you, you can make a plan.

It’s always a good idea to keep emergency supplies ready. Experts suggest having enough water and food to last a few days. Other helpful supplies include blankets, extra clothes, a first aid kit and a flashlight with batteries. A battery-powered or crank radio is useful for weather updates during an emergency.

Extreme weather events can feel scary. You might want to include a book, a card game or a comfort item that helps you feel safe.

Look for guides for how to prepare for specific kinds of extreme weather—like intense heat or floods. Make plans with your grownups for how to stay home safely. Or how to get to another safe place in your community. Post your plans and emergency contacts somewhere you’ll see them. Then practice those plans. The more you practice, the easier it will be to follow them in a real emergency.

You don’t have to prepare for extreme weather alone. Connect with your family, friends and neighbors before an emergency happens. Share what you’ve learned about extreme weather in your area. Take note of the people in your community who might need extra help.

That’s the thing I remember most from the tornado when I was a kitten. The neighbors came to check on me. After the storm ended, we all helped each other. That made me feel safe—even though the weather didn’t.

I wish that extreme weather events didn’t happen. But I’m confident we can face hard things together. The fact you’re thinking about this means you’re the kind of person I’d love to have on my emergency team.


Dr. Universe