Heavy rain and tree on street (or parking lot)

planning timeline for severe weather

A regular review of plans is a good way to be prepared. Doing this routinely helps you both reinforce what you need to do and also stay agile — life and weather changes, your plans need to remain flexible too.

As weather events are now different from how they were in the past, it’s important to adjust our thinking. I don’t subscribe to the Chicken Little mindset and believe that every storm will cause the sky to fall, but I do think it’s prudent to stay smart and aware.

One way to do this is to use each approaching storm as a quick check-in to aid in practice and preparation. NOAA created a nice infographic — a storm planning timeline that can help. By paying attention to upcoming forecasts and also using awareness of your particular situation, it’s possible to prepare now and avoid panic.

Infographic for a storm planning timeline by weather.gov It shows a thunderstorm and road and overlaid on top are things to do. A few days out: if the forecast calls for severe weather start preparing. make sure you have emergency supplies, know your safe places, and have a communication plan. The day before forecast accuracy continues to improve: adjust plans, make sure your phone can receive emergency alerts (and have a backup method such as a radio), check that your shelter is clean and accessible. The day of the storm remain aware of active watches -- a warning may be issued at a moments notice. Remind others of the communication plan, know how to evacuate and where you are going, when a warning is issued be prepared to take action immediately.

Here is how I apply the timeline to prepare for a storm.

A few days before

It’s likely the forecast may change drastically in the days leading up to a storm. That doesn’t mean I should procrastinate. When I first learn of the possibility for a severe event, I do a quick check. Are there any appointments or deadlines I may need to shift? Do I need any groceries, cat food, or to fill up my gas stank?

I also do a quick spot-check of my priority now. Is there anything that needs attention? I’ll try to take mitigating steps now. It might not be possible to completely fix an issue before a storm, but if I can get into a work queue I may be prioritized after the storm has passed.

The day before

At this point the forecast is more definite and advisories may be issued. This is when I make hard decisions on rescheduling. I also make sure that my devices are fully charged and remain as close to that as possible until after the storm has left my area. I do a final check on my go bag and check that everything is set to lure Dot into a cat carrier and safely go if we had to evacuate.

Storm Day

I have various weather and emergency alerts on my phone and I check the local forecast regularly. It’s important to stay aware and ready to make changes on what’s actually happening outside my window. It’s easy to think “it won’t be bad” if the timing doesn’t match the initial forecast. This is when I am most vigilant to stay aware of changes and act accordingly.


Not every storm will be a horrific event (I hope). Taking time to plan and prepare can help you safely protect yourself, those you care for, and your property.

Additional Articles & Reading

image of a street with heavy rain and some indication of water covering the roadway.