Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Information and Safety Tips for Tornadoes

We had a super cell storm move thru our area tonight which spawned a Tornado. This Storm and Tornado had a tremendous amount of hail produced.  There was baseball and softball size hail causing a lot of damage to homes and cars near the site of touchdown. This Tornado was minor in comparison to the one in Joplin, Missouri but still reaked some havoc.

With all of the recent tornadoes in the United States, it's important to remember that every state is at risk of experiencing a tornado. According to FEMA, tornadoes are nature's most violent storms and as we have all seen in the news, they can be devastating. We would like to share a few important facts from FEMA that may be especially helpful for people who aren't familiar with the threat of tornadoes.

• Tornadoes are spawned from powerful thunderstorms

• Winds associated with tornadoes can reach up to 300MPH

• Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still

• Tornadoes may strike very quickly and give very little or no warning that they are coming

• Sometimes tornadoes will appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel

• The average tornado moves from the Southwest to the Northeast

• Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during the 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 the hours of 3pm and 9pm

Signs of a Tornado

Know the signs of a tornado: Weather forecasting science is not perfect and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky. Besides an obviously visible tornado, here are some things to look and listen for:

Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.

Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base -- tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!

Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.

Day or night - Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.

Night - Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.

Night - Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning -- especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

What to do in a Tornado Warning

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. [It is safer to get the car out of mud later if necessary than to cause a crash.] Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.

In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

After the Tornado
Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.

Information provided by NOAA and FEMA

*linking to Homestead Revival Preparedness Challenge


Harvest Moon by Hand said...

Excellent advice! There was a tornado that touched down only ten minutes from here on Sunday; and one that caused major damage 40 minutes from here (it was the same traveled quite a distance).

We did "Go-Bags" this week after our emergency warning sirens didn't go off. Felt totally unprepared when we saw the tornado out the window to the SE.

If you want to check out what we did, here's the link:

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

Thanks for linking up with this timely advice. I have sought shelter in a closet or bathtub more than once! We always pulled a mattress on top as well.

joyfilled said...

Wow, this is excellent. We live in an area on the ID/OR border where we aren't too prone to much in the way of natural disasters, but I know that doesn't mean we are exempt from them! I was just talking with my MIL about this the other day...about how we *think* we are safe from this stuff here, but we're fair game! And if something DID happen, how in the world would we put out a warning, since there are no systems of the sort in this area?!

But thank you SO much for this information. After what has happened in the US over the last couple months, and the fact that we've had regular storms and strange weather over here, you can bet I've been watching the sky like a hawk. But I'm very grateful for this information, because I hadn't a clue about most of it!

April's Homemaking said...

Thanks for this information- I too am from Oregon, and we tend to think we are safe here- but this last December a Tornado (I'm sure small compared to the recent ones) hit in Aumsville (only 20-30 minutes away from me), and really tore apart the town. Our town was on storm watch for awhile, and I really was only slightly sure of what to do. Thanks for your helpful information!