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  • Tornadoes 101: What Are They?

    When the weather gets blustery and the sky goes dark, no matter where you live you probably have a thought or two about a tornado. In some parts of the country, this kind of weather really could mean a tornado is imminent. In other parts, it’s probably just a storm brewing that won’t have any funnel clouds as a side effect.

    But no matter where you live, you’re not immune from tornadoes. Sure, they’re more prevalent in what is known as Tornado Alley, but they can also happen in every state in the country. This makes planning for them important for everyone, regardless of location.

    In order to prepare for a tornado, it would be useful to know what they are. After all, knowing is half the battle.


    What’s a Tornado?

    Tornado 01You’ve probably at least seen a picture of a tornado before (if not, check out the image to the right – that’s a tornado). According to The National Severe Storms Laboratory, a tornado “is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground.” If the rotating column of air doesn’t connect with the ground, then it’s known as a funnel cloud.

    As noted, tornadoes are a rotating column of air. Air itself is invisible, so the only way to see a tornado is when its funnel is made up of water droplets, dust, and debris. That’s what gives it its dark color.


    How Do They Form?

    Tornado DiagramTornadoes mostly form from thunderstorms. When warm, moist air clashes with cool, dry air, the atmosphere becomes unstable, creating a change in wind direction and increase of wind speed. Increased wind speed and change in wind direction then causes the cloud to spin vertically. Tornadoes form inside this rotating cloud.

    That’s the science behind it (albeit a little confusing perhaps…). However, it’s still not fully understood how tornadoes actually form. The NSSL explained that tornadoes “can happen without such temperature patterns.” So while those temperature fluctuations are a fairly safe bet for a tornado, that doesn’t mean one won’t form independent of those factors.


    How Strong are Tornadoes?

    Tornado DamageTornadoes can range from fairly weak to devastatingly strong. They are ranked according to the Fukita Tornado Damage Scale, beginning at F0 and going as high as an F5. The wind speeds of an F0 are less than 73 mph, whereas the wind speeds of an F5 range between 261 and 318 mph. That’s some crazy wind! And with winds that fast, nothing is safe. Fortunately, F5’s don’t happen as frequently as others. In fact, there have only been 59 officially rated F5 tornadoes in the United States since 1950. While not frequent, that’s still quite a bit for something so powerful.



    Tornadoes are scary, but according to Accuweather, your odds of being hit by a tornado are pretty slim. That being said, if you live in Tornado Alley, your odds just increased exponentially. For those outside that wind tunnel of states, odds are much lower. But remember – tornadoes do happen in every state, so no matter where you live, be prepared!


    How have you prepared for a tornado in your area? Let us know in the comments!



  • Afghanistan Earthquake Leaves Thousands in Dire Need of Shelter

    “We are in dire need of help. The earthquake is not over for us yet. It shook our world.”

    Those words by Wahab Hayat ring true for all affected by Monday’s Afghanistan earthquake which also reached into Pakistan. It may have only rumbled the earth for 45 seconds, but it’s still shaking up thousands of lives.

    Homes Destroyed and Shelter - BBC - Afghanistan Earthquake via BBC

    At least 360 people were killed in the 7.5 magnitude earthquake, over 1,600 people injured, and over 4,000 homes destroyed. Now, just a few days after the earthquake, there is a plea for food, blankets, and other necessities. Most dire for them, however, appears to be shelter.

    In the mountainous regions, heavy rain and even snow have made things nearly unbearable for the displaced in those areas. While it’s bad for adults, they worry more about the safety of the children.

    “Thousands spent Tuesday night in near-freezing temperatures,” reported the BBC.

    Lacking proper shelter following a disaster is something we’ve seen before, and just recently, too. In April of this year, Nepal was hit with the strongest earthquake in its history. It killed 9,000 people, and destroyed around 900,000 homes. Displacement was widespread, and a lack of shelter made it difficult for most, especially when Monsoon season came about.

    To this day, nearly six months later, there is still a need of shelter in Kathmandu and other areas of Nepal. For those in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the need for shelter is become a matter of life and death.

    While government agencies and charities work quickly to bring shelter, food, and other necessities to the hardest-hit regions, broken roads and landslides made it difficult to reach some of the devastated regions. Others are still waiting for help to arrive.

    Child By Rubble - Al Jazeera - Afghanistan Earthquake via Al Jazeera

    These events are tragic, but it is still important that we learn from them. When it comes to emergency supplies, are you prepared to take care of your family for up three days at the minimum? Relying on outside help could have you waiting for days. In the case of the people in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they’re sleeping in the cold because help hasn’t arrived yet. Once their food supplies run out, that’s it. Things aren’t going well for them.

    Of course, it’s difficult to prepare for every single disaster, and every scenario that accompanies them. But you can prepare for the basic necessities. Food, water, and shelter are three of the most important areas to prepare for. Sometimes food and water take top priority. For these people, shelter is what they need most.

    Barebones Inside - Afghanistan Earthquake Inside the Barebones tent

    Start off by having emergency blankets in easy to access locations. If you have a tent, make sure it’s in good condition. If you don’t have one, consider getting one. It’s much more pleasant sleeping in even a tiny tent than outside in the wind and the elements. If you have more room for tent storage, our Barebones tents are the ultimate emergency shelter.

    But no matter what you choose, just make sure you choose something. Here in Utah and other areas of the United States, the nights are already getting a wee bit chilly. If something were to happen to your home now and you were forced to sleep outside, would you have the proper shelter to keep you and your family warm? It’s something to start thinking about.


    Earthquake Banner - Call to Action - Afghanistan Earthquake

  • Natural Inconveniences - Are You Prepared?

    Now that we’ve re-hashed the super-massive, Pacific Northwest-destroying super-earthquake (courtesy of the Cascadia subduction zone), let’s talk about another, just-as-important earthquake.

    Natural Inconveniences - Tiny Epic EarthquakesIt happened on July 1, 2015 in Nova Scotia, Canada, right in the middle of their Canada Day celebrations. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and Natural Resources Canada reported there was no damage. After all, “none would be expected” by the small, 3.6 earthquake.

    Wait, so why are we even talking about this small-scale earthquake if it’s of no consequence?

    Because it is.

    You see, many people assume that their area is immune from earthquakes, and so they don’t prepare. But as we can see from this example, earthquakes do happen, even if we don’t think they ever would.

    Mike Springer was at his home when the aforementioned earthquake struck. He was quite surprised at the occurrence.

    “Holy mackerel,” he said, as reported by CBC New. “I didn’t think we had earthquakes in Nova Scotia.”

    Welp, turns out you do. But don’t worry, Mr. Springer, you’re not an anomaly.

    Shortly after the major Nepal quake, an extremely rare 4.2 earthquake shook up Michigan. According to a Michigan Live report, this quake was unusual because “Michigan is not on a major plate.” Which goes to show that we can’t necessarily predict the regions in which earthquakes will occur. Ironically, footage of the shaking was captured on video during a pastor’s appeal to donate to those effected in Kathmandu from the Nepal Earthquake. You can see that video at this link.

    Although both these recent earthquakes mentioned have been small and the effects were moot, it helps us realize that, no matter where we are, we are at risk for a potential disaster. It’s not just the Nepal earthquakes or the Cascadia subduction zones we need to be prepared for. We need to be prepared for the smallest inconvenience. After all, if we’re not prepared for an inconvenient natural disturbance, it could end up being more than just a little proverbial thorn in the side.

    Power Outage with CandlesWith the right magnitude or with the epicenter in the right spot, you could be dealing without power. Do you have your alternate energy sources? Earthquakes don’t wait until it’s convenient. One could strike as you’re getting ready for bed, so if you don’t have an extra light or some source of power, brushing your teeth could be done in the dark.

    Speaking of brushing your teeth…What if a water main broke because of the quake? Sure, you could go without brushing your teeth for a morning or night, but that’s not the best for your teeth – or those around you (no offense, but it’s true for all of us). Having an extra source of water could come in really handy then.

    Essentially, we need to be ready for anything. While you may not think that earthquakes happen where you live, you have just seen two examples of quakes that, according to probability, should never have happened in your lifetime. And yet it did. Fortunately, they were just small ones and no harm was done. But before a bigger one happens that should also never happen, go on out and get prepared.


    How have you prepared for those natural inconveniences?


    Earthquake Banner - Call to Action

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