Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tornado Safety and Planning Checklist

Did you know that 3 out of every 4 tornadoes touch down right here in the United States? You could probably guess that. But do you know which state has the most? Many would say it was one of the states in tornado alley.  But that's actually wrong.  It’s Florida.  Florida is the thunderstorm capital of the world.  The tornadoes spawned in Florida usually don’t reach the width of a tornado that happen to occur in tornado alley, but on average, they receive the most with 12.3 tornadoes per 10,000 miles. 

So which state receives the second most tornadoes?

You guessed it, Toto … Kansas.  Kansas, unfortunately, is in the heart of tornado alley. During the month of May and early June, Kansas sees an average of 11.7 tornadoes per 10,000 miles. That’s a lot ya’ll! And unfortunately, Kansas is one of the worst states when it comes to tornadoes and tragedy. In 2007, the town of Greensburg was destroyed by an EF-5 tornado that was 1.7 miles wide. The Greensburg, Kansas tornado was actually wider than the town itself!

Living in The Wizard of Oz state … you’d think we’d get used to the storms every year. But every year, a tornado seems to come within miles of our homes and manages to awe us and keep us glued to our TV sets for hours. I once made a joke that "you know you live in Kansas when you’re unsure of where the tornado is because the weather service people have all taken shelter themselves." In all actuality, it's not a joke at all. Tornado's should be taken very seriously.

Every state is at risk for developing a tornado or land/water spout. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. So what should you do to protect yourself (and your family) against nature’s most violent storm?  Be prepared!

Preparedness involves a continuous process of planning, equipping, training, and exercising. Planning for tornadoes requires identifying a place to take shelter, being familiar with and monitoring your local warning system, and establishing procedures to account for everyone in your home or in the building.

Identify a Shelter Location: An underground area, such as a basement or storm cellar, provides the best protection from a tornado. If an underground shelter is unavailable, consider the following…

  • Seek a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible
  • Stay away from doors, windows, and outside walls
  • Stay in the center of the room, and avoid corners because they attract debris
  • Rooms constructed with reinforced concrete, brick or block with no windows and a heavy concrete floor or roof system overhead
  • Avoid auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums that have flat, wide-span roofs
What if you’re caught outside? Seek shelter in a basement or a sturdy building. If one is not within walking distance, try to drive in a vehicle, using a seat belt, to the nearest shelter. If flying debris is encountered while in a vehicle, you pretty much have two options: 1) stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on, keeping your head below the windows and covering it with your hands or a blanket, 2) if there is an area which is noticeable lower than the roadway, lie in that area and cover your head with your hands.

Get the emergency supply kits and keep them in the shelter location.
Here are some recommendations for your emergency supply kit...

  • Water (1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a 3-day supply of non-perishables): Dry cereal, peanut butter, canned vegetables and/or fruits, ready to eat soup (not concentrated)
  • Battery powered radio and/or weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Moist towlettes or baby wipes
  • Bags for sanitation purposes
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for the canned foods

If a tornado is imminent in your location, do not heed warnings. Immediately seek shelter in the lowest level of your home/building. If you don’t have a basement, go to an inner hallway or closet. Put as many walls between you and the outside as you possible can.

  • Keep away from windows and glass doors.
  • Cushion yourself with a mattress but do not cover yourself with one.
  • Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or article of clothing to protect yourself from flying debris and broken glass.
  • Keep pets in a crate or carrier.
  • Stay inside until you are certain the storm has passed. Many tornadoes have emerged from the same storm system (ie: last night in Bennington, Kansas – a half mile wide tornado touched down, dissipated, and then reformed causing farm damage and lost livestock)
  • Do not remain in a mobile home during a tornado. Even mobile homes with tie-down systems cannot withstand the force of a tornado’s winds.
  • If you’re in a car, do NOT get out of a vehicle and climb up under the embankment of a bridge or overpass.

My husband is the worst at this. He is always asking me what the difference is between a watch and a warning. Knowing the difference between the two can be life or death.

  • A watch means conditions are right for dangerous weather. In other words, a "watch" means watch out for what the weather could do, be ready to act.
  • A warning means that the dangerous weather is threatening the area.

Every year, dozens of people die from a tornado. Living in the beautiful prairie state of Kansas, being in a tornado warning is never uncommon – but it’s always just as scary. It is important to make decisions about the safest places well BEFORE you ever have to go to them.

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  1. Amanda,

    I loved your article. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you for sharing this knowledge. Tornadoes are some of the most destructive and fascinating natural phenomena Mother Nature can produce! Given the fact that these phenomena can happen all over the world at any given time, it’s almost common sense that every person should know a few very important tornado safety tips. See more