We are on day 4 of a Severe Weather Outbreak that is hitting the central and southern U.S.  Yesterday, a southern suburb of Oklahoma City was devastated by an EF-4.

Take the time to learn a little more about this threat:

Tornadoes are violent storms that are capable of fatalities and devastating neighborhoods in seconds.  While tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica, the majority of tornadoes occur in the United States. In an average year, 1,200 tornadoes cause 60-65 fatalities and 1,500 injuries nationwide (   Tornadoes have been reported in each U.S. state, can happen at any time of the year, and can also happen at any time of day or night.  The most typical “tornado season” is from March to August.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale rates tornadoes strength based on the damage they have caused.  An F0 or EF0 tornado, the weakest category, damages trees, but not substantial structures. An F5 or EF5 tornado, the strongest category, rips buildings off their foundations and can deform large skyscrapers.

Even though some tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible, there are precautions and preventative measures that people can take to increase the chances of surviving a tornado.

  • Practice periodic drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Have a plan to get alerted about approaching storms throughout the day and especially while asleep. While there are some services that offer cell phone text message alerts, the NOAA weather alert radio remains the gold standard for notification.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instruction given by local emergency management officials.
  • Know emergency procedures at work and where to take shelter there and at home. If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately! Do not wait until you see the tornado. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.
  • Ensure life safety emergencies are reported to 911 right away.
  • For more information about what to do before, during and after a tornado—including preparing a safe room—see the Tornadoes section of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website.
If you are in: Then:
A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)
  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Do not open windows.
A trailer or mobile home
  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Fact/Fiction (NOAA)

FICTION: Lakes, rivers, and mountains protect areas from tornadoes.

FACT: No geographic location is safe from tornadoes. A tornado near Yellowstone National Park left a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 foot mountain.

FICTION: A tornado causes buildings to “explode” as the tornado passes overhead.

FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause the most structural damage.

FICTION: Open windows before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

FACT: Virtually all buildings leak. Leave the windows closed. Take shelter immediately. An underground shelter, basement or safe room are the safest places. If none of those options are available, go to a windowless interior room or hallway.

FICTION: Highway overpasses provide safe shelter from tornadoes.

FACT: The area under a highway overpass is very dangerous in a tornado. If you are in a vehicle, you should immediately seek shelter in a sturdy building. As a last resort, you can either: stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible, OR if you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

FICTION: It is safe to take shelter in the bathroom, hallway, or closet of a mobile home.

FACT: Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes! Abandon your mobile home to seek shelter in a sturdy building immediately. If you live in a mobile home, ensure you have a plan in place that identifies the closest sturdy buildings.

Helpful Links:

Posted in Preparedness, Safety Tips
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