Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. They are caused by powerful thunderstorms and can kill and devastate a neighborhood in seconds as we unfortunately saw in Oklahoma. A tornado has high speed winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. The extent of the damage can be as much as one mile wide and 50 miles long or even larger.
Every state is at some risk from this hazard. Tornadoes can possibly develop so rapidly that little – if any – advance warning is possible. The wind may die down and the air may become very still before a tornado pops up – aka the calm before the storm. Keep an eye out for clouds of debris – these can indicate the location of a tornado even if the funnel itself is not visible. I’m going to give you a few tips that will help you out if you’re ever caught off guard by a tornado.
1. Know the facts/signs. Tornadoes often cause greenish skies, large hail, a loud train-like sound, and dark, low-lying clouds. If you notice any of these, prepare to take immediate action. Peak tornado season in the south is March – May, and in the north it’s April – June; however, they can strike at any time. Studies have also shown that tornadoes typically occur between 3:00 and 9:00 PM. The difference between a “tornado watch” and “tornado warning” is something else to make sure you understand. A “tornado watch” means that the conditions are right for a tornado to be possible so stay alert. A “tornado warning” means that a tornado has actually been spotted via radar detection or eye witnesses, and you should find shelter immediately.
2. Tune in. Investing in a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) emergency weather radio would be a smart decision for every family. The one that I have linked is battery or hand crank operated, has a flashlight, and can charge your cell phone – again, the more uses one thing has, the more valuable it is in your bug out bag.
3. Get the App. The American Red Cross has a free app simply called “Tornado.” This app will set off alarms even if it’s closed in the event of a tornado. Not only will it monitor your current location, but you can also program in other cities that loved ones or friends might live. It also has great tips and advice within the app.
4. Take shelter. If all of the above steps failed you for one reason or another and you’re in the middle of a tornado, you need to know where to take shelter. Some people have made an actual safe room in their house. It is designed to withstand strong winds as well as other parts of the house possibly collapsing on it. If you don’t have a “safe room,” go to the most centralized room on the lowest floor of your building. The idea is to get as many walls between you and the tornado as possible. Basements are always the best option during a tornado.
Remember to take your bug out bag with you whenever you’re taking shelter because you might be stuck there for a while and will need your supplies. If you are in a mobile home or trailer, you need to get out immediately and get to the closest solid structure. If you’re on the road and debris starts slamming into your vehicle, pull over and park, get
below the windows as much as possible, and cover your face with your hands and a blanket or jacket. If you see a ditch or other low lying area close by, exit your vehicle and quickly move to it covering your face/neck and lay down. Most deaths and injuries during a tornado are cause by flying debris.