FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As weather continues to bounce between spring heat and winter cold, Fort Rucker officials urge people to prepare for the year's first severe weather season.

Not including hurricane season, the southeast experiences two severe weather seasons throughout the year and preparation is key to weathering the storms, according to Willie Worsham, Fort Rucker's emergency management officer.

"We are currently in our first severe weather season," he said, which typically runs through April, with the second season running August-September.

"As winter comes to a close, cold fronts come down from the north and the subtropical ridge in the south begins to warm and move northward into the southeast," said Worsham. "As these two systems collide, violent weather patterns can erupt due to the drastic differences in temperatures."

The second season hits when cold fronts begin moving back down and colliding with the warm air of summer, he said.

"The subtropical ridge doesn't allow the cold front to move through, so it will cause a lot of instability in the atmosphere," which can lead to severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes, he added.

People can expect strong storms with high winds, heavy downpours, lightning, possible tornadoes and even flooding in low-lying areas, said Worsham. But tornados are one of the main things people need to be prepared for since they are so unpredictable and can strike without warning.

"The dynamics in the atmosphere during these periods are very conducive for the formation of tornados," he said. "If people hear tornado sirens, they should immediately move to an interior area of their house, such as a hallway or closet, and try and shield themselves with mattresses or anything they can."

Because of the unpredictable nature of weather, Worsham said that people should always have a plan ready for such an occasion and stay informed. Listen for sirens and make sure everyone in their household knows what to do in the event of a severe weather emergency, he added.

Worsham offered tips for people to follow to prepare for such emergencies.

• Make a family communications plan.
• Identify levees and dams in the area, and determine whether they pose a hazard.
• Be sure trees and shrubs around the home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
• Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
• Bring in or secure all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and other items that are not tied down, so they do not become a hazard.
• Set the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed in case of power outages. Freeze water in containers and place in freezer to help keep food frozen.
• Turn off propane tanks.
• Close all interior doors, and secure and brace external doors.
• Watch pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Be sure to have enough food and water for pets.
• Fill the bathtub and other containers with water in case the tap water is contaminated for sanitary purposes such as cooking, cleaning and flushing toilets.

These tips can be used for just about any weather emergency, including hurricane season, which typically runs from June-November, he said.

Regardless of the type of weather emergency, Worsham said people need to be ready for anything, because anything can happen.

"(Something) people tend to forget is that during these storms, power can go out at any time and stay out for days," he said. "This is something people need to be ready for, especially in more rural areas."

Normally people should prepare for a 72-hour time period, but in the more rural areas, it might take longer for help to get out to those areas, so people might want to prepare for a bit longer, he said.

Keeping an eye on the Fort Rucker Facebook page and signing up for the AtHOC Mass Notification System are two other great tools that can be used to receive information about severe weather, Worsham said.

For more information on emergency weather preparation, visit www.ready.army.mil.