"One problem with thunderstorms is people see them the way they see snakes," said Troy Kimmel, who teaches weather and climate at the University of Texas.
"Most people see a snake and assume it's dangerous, when only a small fraction of snakes in Blanco County are a threat to humans. Most are beneficial, eating mice and rats.
"Thunderstorms are the same way. People tend to fear them, but they replenish the water supply and only about five percent actually are dangerous.
"The best approach," Kimmel said, "is to respect the potential hazard in thunderstorms but not worry too much about most of them."
Kimmel and Bob Rose, meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority, explained Hill Country weather hazards for the Blanco County Disaster Response Group Saturday at the Blanco United Methodist Church in Blanco.
Rose said thunderstorms do contain hazards, though, including the county's three major weather killers: flash flooding, tornadoes and lightning.
"Flash flooding is the most common weather killer here," Rose said. "Most people who die in flash floods are in their cars, trying to get through high water they shouldn't be trying to cross."
"The second biggest flash flood threat is to people who walk near waterways to see the high water, or kids who play in it, and find themselves swept away and overwhelmed."
The irony, he added, is that almost all flash flood deaths are preventable. Just stay away from the water.
"Unfortunately, we're in the middle of our peak flash flood season," Rose explained, "and just starting peak tornado season."
Tornadoes are the number two weather killer, they agreed, although they spin out of only one percent of thunderstorms.
Kimmel said small tornadoes, the the huge majority here, are short and survivable. Only a quarter of all tornadoes are mid-size killers, like the one that hit Eagle Pass last spring. The big monsters, like the Jarrell tornado of 1997, make up only two percent of all Hill Country tornadoes, although they're responsible for 70% of tornado fatalities. Fortunately, one comes along only once a decade or so.
So what can you do to protect against tornadoes?
"Stay out of their way if you're in a car," Rose advised. "You can't outrun one, but you can move away to the side or get behind it."
And if you're its target?
"Hunker down in a small room in the interior of a building, like a bathroom or laundry room, where you put several walls between you and the outside. You can't protect against a wind of more than 200 miles an hour, but you can block most of the debris, and that's the deadliest part of a tornado."
The pair also warned of other thunderstorm hazards, like lightning, which can strike as far as 30 miles from the thunderstorm where it starts, and hail.
"The largest hailstone recorded in the country weighed 1.33 pounds," Kimmel recalled, "and was falling at 125 mph when it hit the ground. Think about that chunk of ice hitting your roof -- or your car -- or your head."
"Don't forget hurricanes just because Blanco is inland," added Rose. "A hurricane might weaken only two or three categories between here and the coast, so having hurricane winds here is a real possibility.
"And remember most people killed in hurricanes drown in flooding in inland counties -- so statistically you're more likely to die in a hurricane here than along the coast!"
The Blanco County Disaster Response Group's May meeting will include Point of Dispensing training by the Texas Department of State Health Services, teaching volunteers how to help with immunizations or medicine distribution in case of a medical emergency.
For more information or to join the group, call JoAnn Routh at 868-0808.