A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. It is spawned by a thunderstorm (or sometimes as a result of a hurricane) and produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. The damage from a tornado is a result of the high wind velocity and wind-blown debris. Tornado season is generally March through August, although tornadoes can occur at any time of year. They tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings: over 80 percent of all tornadoes strike between noon and midnight.
When a tornado is coming, you have only a short amount of time to make life-or-death decisions. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to surviving a tornado. They are one of the greatest weather threats that the US face each year, but knowing what to do during a tornado will increase your chances of survival. Tornadoes spawn from powerful thunderstorms and can cause deaths and devastate neighborhoods in seconds, sometimes with little warning. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
Tornadoes can occur in any state but are more frequent in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas are at greatest risk.
- Conduct tornado drills each tornado season.
- Designate an area in the home as a shelter, and practice having everyone in the family go there in response to a tornado threat.
- Discuss with family members the difference between a "tornado watch" and a "tornado warning.
- Have disaster supplies on hand.
- Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.
Tornado Watches and Warnings
A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when weather conditions are such that tornadoes are likely to develop. This is time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for further developments.
A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. The danger is very serious and everyone should go to a safe place, turn on a battery-operated radio and wait for further instructions.
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable. A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit. When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If shelter is not available, lie in ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the unit.
Tornado Danger Signs
Learn these tornado danger signs:
Large hail: Tornadoes are spawned from powerful thunderstorms and the most powerful thunderstorms produce large hail. Tornadoes frequently emerge from near the hail-producing portion of the storm. Calm before the storm: Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still.
Cloud of debris: An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
Funnel cloud: A visible rotating extension of the cloud base is a sign that a tornado may develop. A tornado is evident when one or more of the clouds turns greenish (a phenomenon caused by hail) and a dark funnel descends.
Roaring noise: The high winds of a tornado can cause a roar that is often compared with the sound of a freight train.
Calm behind the storm: Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
- Listen carefully to the radio , TV news cast.
- Check carefully what is happening in the sky
- If you see clouds in the shape of a funnel call immediately the police & weather station to warn them of this information.
- If possible seek shelter in the basement. If you have time. MAKE SURE that your windows are partly open on the opposite side of the tornado otherwise the pressure from the wind will make them blow off in all directions.
- If you can move then do so by going at right angle from the path of the tornado and move fast.
- If you have no means of escape then throw yourself down into any ditch or other kind of terrain depression & start praying.
- In a public office building the basement is your best bet. Flee from any floor above ground level, find a place with thick wall.
- In a house the basement in its deepest ground is the SAFEST. If you live in an area where those tornadoes are frequent it is wise to reinforce your basement or to build a shelter.
- If there is no basement in this house then go to the lower floor and pull a sofa or heavy piece of furniture over you this sofa etc. should be put in the middle of the house. Don't forget the advice about the windows being partly open.
- A mobile home is a poor shelter & can be wrecked easily better to get out and hide in a ditch. The damages can be lessened if you have taken time to install cables to cement block as a mean of anchorage before the tornado hit you.
If you are in your home:
- Go to the lowest level of the home (Basement), an inner hallway, or smaller interior room without windows, such as a closet or bathroom.
- Get away from windows and go to the center of the room.
- Get under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a workbench or a heavy table.
- Go at once to the basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building. If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a smaller inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet. Get away from the windows. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris. Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it. Use arms to protect head and neck. If in a mobile home, get out and find shelter elsewhere.
If you are in a mobile home:
- Evacuate the mobile home, even if it is equipped with tie-downs.
- Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation, or if one is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area that is a safe distance away from the mobile home.
- Tornadoes do not change elevation quickly enough to pick someone up out of a ditch, especially a deep ditch or culvert.
If you are at work or school:
- Go to an inside hallway at the lowest level of the building.
- Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums unless they are a designed safe room, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
- Go to the basement or to an inside hallway at the lowest level.
- Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, or shopping malls.
- Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
- Use arms to protect head and neck.
If you are outdoors:
- If possible, get inside a sturdy building with a concrete foundation.
- If shelter is not available, or there is no time to get indoors, lie in a ditch or low-lying area or crouch near a strong building.
- Be aware of the potential for flooding. Use arms to protect head and neck.
If you are in a vehicle:
- Never try to outdrive a tornado in a car or truck.
- Tornadoes can change direction quickly and can lift up a car or truck and toss it through the air.
- Get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building.
- If there is no time to get indoors, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle.
- Be aware of the potential for flooding.
If a tornado has passed your area, please take a look around your home and neighborhood and report any damage or injuries to your local authorities. Remember local authorities are currently over burden so you might have to perform live saving first aid to the injuries until local responders are able to get to your area. Once all damages and injuries are address, please activate your family emergency communications plan. Text messaging and social media updates are the preferred way to communicate. Communication towers might be damages and not capable of handling a massive amount of voice calls.
Turn on radio or television to get the latest emergency information. Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the buildings if you smell gas or chemical fumes. Take pictures of the damage--both to the house and its contents--for insurance purposes. Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
- Help injured or trapped persons.
- Give first aid when appropriate.
- Don't try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
- Call for help. Remember local authorities are currently over burden so you might have to perform live saving first aid to the injuries until local responders are able to get to your area.
- Once all damages and injuries are address, please activate your family emergency communications plan. Text messaging and social media updates are the preferred way to communicate. Communication towers might be damages and not capable of handling a massive amount of voice calls.
- You can use the American Red Cross Shelter link and find a person link to identify that you are safe and find a shelter if your home is damaged.
- Turn on radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
- Stay out of damaged buildings.
- Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
- Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
- Leave the buildings if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
- Take pictures of the damage--both to the house and its contents--for insurance purposes.
- Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
INSPECTING UTILITIES IN A DAMAGED HOME
- Check for gas leaks--If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building.
- Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor's home.
- If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
- Look for electrical system damage--If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
- If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
- Check for sewage and water lines damage--If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using toilets and call a plumber.
- If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
TORNADO FORCE SCALE
F SCALE SPEED (MPH) DAMAGE
F0 40-72 LIGHT DAMAGE
F1 73-112 MODERATE DAMAGE
F2 113-157 CONSIDERABLE DAMAGE
F3 158-206 SEVERE DAMAGE
F4 207-260 DEVASTATING DAMAGE
F5 261-318 INCREDIBLE DAMAGE
F6-F12 319+ INCONCEIVABLE DAMAGE