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Tornado Preparedness

The following information on tornadoes is taken from the FEMA website at www.fema.gov/hazard/tornado/index.shtm.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.

Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.

Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Here are a couple of facts about tornadoes:

  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.
  • A Tornado Watch means that tornadoes are possible and you should remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
  • A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should take shelter immediately.

Before a Tornado - How to Plan

You should conduct tornado drills each tornado season. Designate an area in the home as a shelter, and practice having everyone in the family go there in response to a tornado threat. Discuss with family members the difference between a "tornado watch" and a "tornado warning."

Have the following disaster supplies on hand:

Katio® Voyager™

You should also develop an emergency communication plan in case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school). Have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

What to Do During a Tornado

If at home:

  • If you have a tornado safe room or engineered shelter, go there immediately.
  • Go at once to a windowless, interior room; storm cellar; basement; or lowest level of the building.
  • If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Get away from the windows.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
  • Use arms to protect head and neck.
  • If in a mobile home, get out and find shelter elsewhere.

If at work or school:

  • Go to the area designated in your tornado plan.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, or shopping malls.
  • Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
  • Use arms to protect head and neck.

If outdoors:

  • If possible, get inside a building.
  • If shelter is not available or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Use arms to protect head and neck.

If in a car:

  • Never try to out-drive a tornado in a car or truck.
  • Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
  • If there is no time to get indoors, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

After a Tornado

  • Help injured or trapped persons.
  • Give first aid when appropriate.
  • Don't try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Call for help.
  • If you smell gas, do not turn on any appliances or switches. This includes using phones, flashlights or a cell phone.
  • Turn on the radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the buildings if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take pictures of the damage--both to the house and its contents--for insurance purposes.

Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

When a tornado is coming, you have only a short amount of time to make life-or-death decisions. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to surviving a tornado.

4 thoughts on “Tornado Preparedness”

  • Anonymous

    If you think a tornado won't hit your area, think again! About 10 years ago, while living in New Haven, Connecticut (not a place you'd expect to get a tornado)a severe thunderstorm came up. It got progressively worse. At one point the thunder sounded like a freight train. It was then that I remember someone telling me that this is the sound you hear as a tornado approaches. Sure enough, I looked out the window and you could see it. The tornado ran a path of about a mile long only 1/2 mile from where I was. It completely destroyed about a dozen houses and hundreds of trees.

  • Portable Garages

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

  • Emily

    I just realized that I have never packed a can opener with my food storage. How entirely essential that is! Thanks for reminding me.

  • kshousewife

    During the Joplin F-5 we lived about 30 miles NW of where the tornado hit. That evening I listed as first responders called for backup, tried to get to those who needed help and endured heartbreak and some extremely long hard hours. Within hours, sadly, came a call for more body bags. It's not something anyone wants to ever have to consider, but worst case scenarios do happen. Plan for it by stocking large durable bags, sheeting and shovels. Pray that you'll never have to use them.

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