Tornadoes are a big deal in the United States. There are around 1000 annually across the country. Tornado Alley, an area known for this phenomenon, runs from Texas all the way up to North Dakota, and runs from Wyoming in the West to Ohio in the east. And even if you live outside of this zone, you’re not necessarily safe- one of the areas hardest hit in recent years, Northern Florida, lies well outside of Tornado Alley.
Tornadoes are nature’s most severe storms. While their footprint is small, their power is focused and more destructive than any other. Knowing what to do before and during a tornado is an important life skill for people living in most places in North America.
BEFORE A TORNADO
The first thing you need to do is be aware of weather conditions in your area. Always have a battery powered radio in your home, with some back up batteries, as the power will often go out during a severe storm. You need to be familiar with two terms: A tornado watch, and a tornado warning.
A tornado watch is issued when weather conditions exist that favor tornadoes. It means be cautious and ready. If you’re out, head home immediately.
A tornado warning means a tornado has either been sighted, or tracked on weather radar. In the event of a tornado warning, you must TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.
Other signs a tornado might be imminent:
1) dark, greenish-colored skies, with low hanging clouds,
2) a roaring wind that sounds like a freight train, and
3) large hail.
If you witness any of these, it is probably a good idea to find shelter right away.
DURING A TORNADO
Most injuries and deaths during a tornado are caused by flying debris, so the key is to find a safe place to avoid this. If you’re at home, close all of your doors and get everyone to a central room with no windows, on the lowest level possible.
Try to get under something sturdy, like a heavy table or work bench, for added protection. Stay away from top-heavy furniture, like book shelves or cabinets, as they could fall over. Also, avoid being directly below heavy furniture or objects (ie a fridge or piano) as there have been cases of these falling through the floor during a tornado.
Try to avoid long span (large, rectangle-shaped buildings such as gyms or malls) buildings during a tornado. Their design requires their walls to support most of their roofs weight, making them much more likely to collapse than buildings with more support.
If you’re in a car when a tornado hits, get out immediately. The worst place to be is inside of a car. Find a low-lying area, such as a ditch, lie down and cover your head. Stay there until the storm dies down.
Good luck and stay prepared!