Tornado Preparedness

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Indians once referred to the mighty tornado as the “Finger of God” because it has the power to spare or destroy.

Tornados can occur in every state and has the capacity to strike with little or no warning. The damage from a tornado results from high wind velocity and wind blown debris. Because they can occur in any state and also accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land, each family should make preparations before a tornado strikes.

Tornado Facts:

  • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph. The maximum speed is over 300 mph.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during 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 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time.

Tornadoes are categorized based on sustained wind damage:

F-0 40-72 mph Chimney damage, tree branches broken F-1 73-112 mph Mobile homes pushed off their foundations or overturned F-2 113-157 mph Considerable damage. Mobile homes demolished. Trees uprooted F-3 158-205 mph Roofs and walls torn down. Trains overturned. Cars thrown. F-4 207-260 mph Well constructed walls leveled F-5 261-318 mph Homes lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances. Cars thrown as far as 100 meters.

What’s the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning?

Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Signs of a Tornado

Always be on alert when a strong storm is approaching — with the right conditions it could turn into a tornado. Look for these additional signs:

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Preparing for a Tornado

These swirling vortexes of destruction can cause fatalities and destroy in a matter of seconds with paths of up to 1 miles in width or more. Therefore it is in one’s best interest to prepare beforehand. Pre-planning is critical in helps your family react more quickly and fluidly to the situation at hand. Sitting down as a family to discuss protocols, procedures and what they should expect during a tornado will help them grasp the severity of the situation.

Make a Plan

The first thing you should do to prepare for any emergency is to sit down with your family and create a preparedness plan that includes pertinent contact information, alternative emergency locations, and have important papers safely put away or downloaded onto a flash drive for easy carry. Sometimes these subjects can be hard for small children to understand. Children have a psychological need for security and stability therefore, prepare your children by building their natural resilience to these situations. Read more here.

Further, if you store food and water for emergencies, plan to have meals that will require minimum fuel or electricity usage.

Communications is an important aspect of tornado preparedness. Ensure that you have a

In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

Sheltering in Place

Your family could be anywhere when a tornado strikes–at home, at work, at school, or in the car. Discuss different shelter areas to go to during a tornado. Moreover, talk with members of how they can protect themselves from flying and falling debris.

According to the American Red Cross, “the key to surviving a tornado and reducing the risk of injury lies in planning, preparing, and practicing what you and your family will do if a tornado strikes. Flying debris causes most deaths and injuries during a tornado. Although there is no completely safe place during a tornado, some locations are much safer than others.”

At Home

Pick a place in the home where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. One basic rule is AVOID WINDOWS AND MIRRORS. An exploding window can injure or kill.

The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basement. If there is no basement, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet.

For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head with anything available–even your hands. Avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects, such as pianos or refrigerators, on the area of floor that is directly above you. They could fall though the floor if the tornado strikes your house.

If you live in a mobile home, bear in mind that these do not offer adequate shelter. They can turn over from high wind velocities. If you live in mobile home, evacuate immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter from a tornado. Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter.

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Tess Pennington joined the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross in 1999 Tess worked as an Armed Forces Emergency Services Center specialist and is well versed in emergency and disaster management and response. You can follow her regular updates on Preparedness, Homesteading, and a host of other topics at ReadyNutrition.com.

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