Chief Meteorologist Dan Threlkeld recounts the Branson tornado and damage

BRANSON, Missouri - Branson was struck at 1:25 a.m. on Leap Day morning, but it could have been so much worse.

Had it happened a few hours earlier there would have been theaters filled with tourists. There would have been clogged Branson streets with vulnerable passengers. And there would have been pedestrian shoppers out in Branson Landing.

When I reported from there on Wednesday I saw razor sharp shards of glass littering the neighborhood in Mount Branson, telling me there would have been many more injured or even killed.

Some I spoke with said, "we didn't know what was happening" and I heard from several families who told me they were in bed when it hit.

Despite the fact that the National Weather Service had a Tornado Warning out, most never knew of the warning. Most were not up watching the coverage on television or radio, most were in bed asleep.

You are much safer getting in a basement or hunkered down inside an interior room, or under something sturdy as protection, but being in bed isn't the worst place you could be. I would rather ride out a storm under covers than out on the sidewalk. And being under the covers would not be as safe as being under your bed.

My hope is you and your family will never be caught sleeping when a tornado nears.

It's not difficult to get weather warnings. Most tornadic events are talked about for days in advance on television. When you hear the meteorologist mention "possible tornadoes" you need to make sure you and your family have a plan of action.

Select the safe place in your home. If you are fortunate enough to have an underground shelter or safe room then the decision is easy.

Have you had a practice drill?

On a quiet day, have everyone pretend they are in bed asleep and then calmly have everyone walk to the "safe place." It could be a closet, a bathroom, a kitchen pantry, a hallway. Make that decision well in advance.

Remind children that during tornadoes we have one plan and during a fire we have another plan. It's also a great time to practice your fire drill. Have an adult hit the smoke detector (this also is a great way to check your smoke detector) and everyone calmly go outside to meet by the big tree or the mailbox, or some other well-known spot. Remind them if there is smoke to crawl out of the house.

For about $30 you can purchase a weather radio. Program in your county, and day or night, if the National Weather Service issues a warning for the county you live in, it will alarm you. When there is a warning, go to your safe place.

We stay up at all hours watching storms in Green Country. Anytime you are concerned, simply flip on the television and log on to on your computer, cell phone or tablet.

If it is tornadic, we will be on the air letting you know where the storm is located, where it is moving, and what to expect. Downloading the KJRH Interactive Weather Center app is another way to have access to weather information. You can look at radar and get updates on warnings.

Many think of severe weather as something that happens only in spring. Branson was hit, while the calendar said February and it is still winter.

I saw a Twitter post from someone at the National Weather Service that made me think.

It said that the recent outbreak was a reminder that severe weather season really begins on January 1st and ends December 31st.

Severe weather can happen any month and at any time of day or night. Make sure you and your family are ready.

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