I know we don’t exactly live in Tornado Alley, or Texas, and this isn’t The Wizard of Oz, but it’s always good to have some safety tips for inclement weather because…you just never know!
A funnel cloud was seen on Saturday in an area that I have lived in my entire life, and I have yet to witness a tornado….so you can never be too careful.
Prevention and Practice are a MUST: Have a family tornado plan in place based on the type of home you live in, practice it once a year, and have a “safe area”
A safe area is defined as the safest place in your home. If you have a basement be under the stairs against a wall with something to cover you. If you don’t have a basement go to an interior closet or bathroom and get into the tub, cover yourself with towels or a mattress if you can get one quick enough.
Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes so a mattress, blankets, sleeping bags etc. should be close to your “safe area” and within an arms reach. You never get a lot of advance warning with Tornadoes so be prepared to move fast!
Don’t bother cracking a window to equalize pressure. It doesn’t work and the tornado will more than likely blow them out for you, so it’s a wasted effort.
If you shop frequently at stores, familiarize yourself where bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelter areas are located AWAY FROM WINDOWS.
Know the signs of a Tornado!
1. Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base (see picture above)
2. Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base-sometimes tornadoes have no funnel!
3. 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.
4. Day or Night-loud, continuous roar or rumble sounding like a train, which doesn’t fade after a few seconds like thunder.
5. Night-small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm. These lights mean power lines are being snapped by a very strong wind-possibly a tornado.
6.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 house with a basement: Avoid windows!!! Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection, like a heavy table or work bench, and cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where heavy objects rest on the floor above (piano’s, refrigerators, etc) and do NOT go under them. They could fall down through a weakened floor.
In a house with NO basement, a dorm, or an apartment for example: AVOID WINDOWS! Go to the lowest floor, a small center room (bathroom or closet) under a stairwell, or an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Always try to cover yourself with some sort of thick padding to prevent yourself from injury by falling debris.
In an office building, hospital etc: AVOID WINDOWS! See above direction.
In a Mobile Home/ Trailer: GET THE HECK OUT IMMEDIATELY!!! Most tornadoes destroy even tied-down mobile homes. Seek shelter in an underground shelter or permanent sturdy building.
In a vehicle: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away and traffic is light, you MAY be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible, out of traffic lanes. Stay in the car with your seat belt ON. Put your head down below the windows and cover your head with a blanket, coat or anything else you can find. AVOID SEEKING SHELTER UNDER BRIDGES, this offers little to no protection against flying debris.
To summarize: Windows are bad. Keep as far away from them as possible.
After the tornado:
Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully assist 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 heavily damaged houses or buildings, they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters (as tempting as it may be to fire up a cigarette in a stressful emotional time) 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.
Hopefully no one reading this will ever, or has ever, had to use any of these safety tips. They’re a good thing to know with our ever-changing weather patterns you can never predict unruly weather.