Tornadoes are nature's most devastating storms, reaching winds of approximately 300 miles per hour, powerful enough to lift cars and level buildings, destroying neighborhoods and towns in mere minutes. Heavy rains, flash floods and lightening typically accompany tornadoes as well as hail and include whirling winds that take on a funnel shape. When a tornado strikes, your preparedness can mean the difference between life and death.
Storm Spotters and Forecasters
Storm spotters and forecasters have learned how to recognize specific thunderstorm features that make tornado development likely. Some of the visual cues include what are referred to as a rear flank downdraft and others include distinct patterns in radar images with a good example being TVS (tornadic vortex signature). Storm spotters are individuals who have been specifically trained to identify tornado conditions and report them to the National Weather Service. It's important for everyone living in a tornado area to understand the difference between a tornado warning and a watch as well. A warning means that a tornado has been indicated by weather radar or if one is sighted in which case you should take shelter immediately. A watch indicates that tornadoes are a possibility in and around the watch area.
There is no such thing that your safety is guaranteed when a tornado strikes because just about anything can happen due to the violence of tornadoes. They have the power to blow away and/or level homes, businesses and their occupants. In order to protect yourself and your family from this natural disaster, adhere to the following guidelines.
Preparing For a Tornado
Even with considerable advances in tornado prediction and tracking, there still isn't a lot of time to prepare for a tornado when it actually strikes. Being prepared ahead of time is the most important thing you can do to improve the probability of surviving a tornado. If you live in an area where they are commonplace, you should review your emergency plans with your family and make sure everyone understands every part of it. In addition, you'll want to check that you have the right supplies on hand, including water, non-perishable food, batteries, flashlights and a weather radio. It's also a good idea to secure or move items in and around the home, including diseased/damaged tree limbs, trash cans, and furniture, basically anything that has the potential of becoming projectiles.
There's a chance that your family may not all be together when a tornado strikes, so you'll want to know how to get in contact with each other and what to do in case of an emergency. Another thing to keep in mind is that it might be easier during or following a tornado to make a long distance call than to make a call across town. Consider coming up with an out of town contact who will communicate between separated family members for you.
Protect Your Personal Possessions and Important Paperwork
One thing that homeowners and businesses often overlook is securely storing their home inventory information, photos of their possessions and other important paperwork including receipts, insurance policies and more. If you use a service like Altoserv.com, when disaster strikes, you'll know that all the information about your home inventory is in a safe place and you'll be able to prove what possessions you own and get the correct coverage for your home and possessions.
What To Do If a Tornado is Predicted
1. At the first sign of a tornado, or if a tornado warning has been issued, stop whatever you're doing and find shelter immediately, even if you don't actually see the tornado. If you live in a tornado area, there's a good chance that the city you live in has areas that have underground tornado safe rooms including schools. Some homes and businesses have their own, specifically designed, tornado shelters as well. Underground tornado shelter or a specially designed tornado safe rooms is the safest place to be during a tornado. If you live in a high risk area, you should find out where these shelters are located or consider purchasing a prefabricated shelter. You can actually get a guide from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) on how to build a shelter.
2. If there isn't a tornado shelter available, head to the basement of a nearby building, stay away from windows and cover yourself with a sleeping bag, mattress or cushions. In addition, get under a heavy table of one's available, using it as protection from falling debris.
3. If you're in a building without a basement, head to the lowest floor and look for shelter in a small room (closet/bathroom), away from windows, located towards the center of the home. Interior hallways without windows are also good options or underneath a stairwell. Bathrooms are particularly effective because they're fortified by pipes and they're even more effective if there's a bathtub present that you can lie down in. No matter where you are, lie face down or crouch down low to the ground and cover your head with your arms and hands.
4. If you get stuck in a vehicle when a tornado is approaching, get out and look for shelter ASAP. Cars aren't safe shelters during tornados and you should never take the risk of trying to outrun a tornado.
5. Stay in your shelter until danger has passed and if possible, listen for advisories from the National Weather Service, or local radio station before leaving. It's important to keep in mind that it's common for multiple tornadoes to form in an area, so it might not be safe to leave shelter after the first one has passed. Once you've confirmed that it's safe to leave your shelter, exit carefully because after a tornado hits, you're likely to run into hazards that include falling debris, collapsing buildings, blocked roads and flooding. You'll also want to avoid fallen power lines and avoid using lighters and matches in case of fuel tank or natural gas leaks. Keeping an eye on your surroundings, proceed with caution, because there's a good chance that there are sharp objects scattered on the ground and never enter any damaged buildings.