Most of the world’s tornadoes rampage across the central United States in what’s known as Tornado Alley, stretching from west Texas to North Dakota. In an average year, more than 200 tornadoes touch down across this unique flat topography that violently introduces cool dry air from Canada to warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.
Tornadoes certainly occur elsewhere, indeed nearly anywhere if atmospheric conditions suit. Taking precautions now before turbulent weather threatens is sound policy for all. Another necessity? Specific action plans to implement then: during the approximately 13 minutes you’ll have to take cover between warning and wind.
To Do Now:
- Create a plan ahead of time – and share it with everybody – designating where your family will seek shelter when a warning is issued. This ensures individual safety as well as preventing worry and danger caused by missing loved ones.
- Designate a radio weather channel to monitor during stormy weather and register for wireless emergency alerts on your mobile phone. Don’t rely on sirens, because their sound can be directed away by wind. Skip the neighborhood phone tree – it’s unlikely there will be enough time for these measures.
- Stay alert for dangerous conditions and times. Storms may show funnel cloud warning signs: dark, often greenish skies; clouds that seem to form a wall; large hail without rain; and “fingers” poking down from clouds. Survivors also describe a period of dead calm before hearing the characteristic freight train rumble of an approaching tornado. Though tornadoes can occur anytime, they are most common during May, June and July between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
- Go immediately to the shelter you have designated. Basements are ideal, though small rooms without windows, such as an interior bathroom, are also suitable. The idea is to maximize walls between you and the outside while minimizing entrance points for wind and debris. If you must shelter in a place with windows, don’t open them. Crouch low to the ground, under a heavy table if possible.
- Bring a flashlight, cell phone and battery-driven radio to track weather developments. Power outages are likely.
- Exit the shelter cautiously. Most twisters last less than 10 minutes and travel three to six miles in a straight line, but they can also last hours, double back along their paths and traverse distances over nearly 100 miles. Further, risks from flying or falling debris may continue for hours post-storm.
With proper planning and smart execution under duress, most people in the path of a tornado survive the ordeal. In a battle with one of nature’s most powerful forces, preparation proves to be a worthy shield.