Underscoring its unpredictability, severe weather in Missouri preceded its annual observance.
Severe Weather Awareness Week will be observed in Missouri next week, from Monday through March 16.
But tornadoes and violent storms beginning last week already have brought death and destruction to the Midwest, including portions of Missouri.
The fundamentals of safety are incorporated in the "Ready in 3" program endorsed by emergency management agencies.
The components of Ready in 3 are: create a plan; prepare a kit; and listen for information.
Because severe weather cannot be prevented, the importance of planning and preparation cannot be overemphasized.
Both families and businesses are advised to include in the emergency plan: where to seek shelter; location of all exits; and where to meet after danger has passed. Make sure schools, day cares, baby sitters and other caregivers have necessary contact information.
In addition, be sure family members know the location of shut-off valves and switches for water, gas and electricity. Knowledge of first aid and CPR also are invaluable in emergency situations.
Practicing the emergency plan also is suggested. Missouri will conduct a statewide severe weather drill at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday as part of Severe Weather Week. If conditions warrant postponement, the drill will be rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 15.
Emergency supply kits are recommended for homes, offices and vehicles. Each kit should contain bottled water, a flashlight, prescription medicine, first aid supplies and a radio with extra batteries.
The radio provides an important link to receive updated information.
People also are advised to keep a small amount of cash available and to keep vehicle gas tanks full in the event ATMs and gas pumps are inoperable.
Other devices that are useful are tone-alert weather radio to receive severe weather warnings and generators to provide power during an outage. Follow generator instructions to avoid possible carbon monoxide buildup in enclosed spaces.
Although severe weather - storms, tornadoes, floods - cannot be prevented, predictions are becoming more accurate.
When severe weather warnings sound, it's up to us to be prepared.