Over the weekend of Jan. 2 there were 41 recorded tornadoes and at least 20 deaths across the southern United States. On Jan. 15 there were brief tornadoes reported in five north and central Texas counties and with the official tornado season now upon us, it’s time to get prepared.

“The number of people killed by tornadoes over (that) weekend was more than the total number of people killed by tornadoes in all of 2016,” an NBC-DFW article states.

The peak tornado season in Texas is late April through early May, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see any activity outside that timeframe.

One year ago an EF-1 tornado, accompanied with straight line winds, tore through Stephenville causing severe damage to The Lillian 1 apartments, the Erath County Courthouse, Foster’s Home for Children, Tarleton State University, Smith Springs Mobile Home Park, Barefoot Campus Outfitters and many other buildings and homes across the area.

Local first responders spring into action when there is a severe weather threat and begin tracking storms using a variety of programs and technology, which includes a high-quality 360-degree video camera that can view most of Stephenville.

“What triggers the opening of our emergency operations center is a severe thunderstorm warning in combination with a tornado watch or a tornado warning by itself,” Stephenville Police Chief Jason King said in a previous interview.

Agencies coordinate with each other to determine if shelters need to be opened and if extra staffing is needed, and if a tornado is confirmed within 10 miles of the city, the outdoor sirens will be activated.

“When people hear the sirens they’ll start calling dispatch wanting to know if there’s something going on,” Stephenville Fire Chief Jimmy Chew said in a previous interview. “We seriously think there’s something going on before they blow those things, so people need to start trying to find a place to be.”

Stephenville and Erath County residents can stay informed by signing up for the Nixle and/or Erath County CodeRed programs, view local first responder social media pages and visit the National Weather Service website.

Tarleton students can sign up for the university’s Code Purple program for campus alerts.

Ultimately it is hard to predict exactly what this year’s storm season will bring, so taking the steps to be prepared early is a good idea.

Preparing for the upcoming season includes:

Keeping a to-go bag ready at all times. Knowing where the nearest shelters are and making sure your kids know where they are located. Having flashlights and extra batteries and an emergency hand-crank radio. Keeping your phone charged when you know severe weather is approaching. Knowing how to safely shut off your electric service, gas line and water. Having and practicing a family evacuation plan that includes your pets. “If you live in a tornado-prone area, one of the best things you can do for the safety of yourself and your family is to brush up on your tornado knowledge,” states The Weather Channel website. “When you know what weather signs to look for and how to react to a storm, it is easier to stay safe.”