In wake of the Devastating tornadoes that have struck Oklahoma and Texas, It is vitally important that we discuss some aspects to stay safe and secure in severe weather. This Article will talk on tornadoes, since they are a serious threat as we head into the late spring and summer.
During a Tornado is not when it is time to start planning what to do or where to go, it is long before then. In all actuality you and your family should have a plan in place now, and perhaps practice it on a regular basis. But before we go into the planning phase we must first understand, the watches, warnings and Risk areas that the national weather service sometimes puts out days in advance to help us know when we need to be alert to severe weather and possibly a tornado outbreak.
The first Thing that is released sometimes several days in advance by the “Storm Prediction Center” is called the Convective Outlooks. Sometimes these are released several days in advance. They reveal the likelihood of severe weather in areas of the united states. Here is what one looks like. (Right) It would be wise to check this on a regular basis so that you know, whether or not severe weather is likely in your area
Now we must now look into what each level means to understand what type of awareness that you need.
TSTM- Pretty much means the chance of thunderstorms during the day. An isolated one may be severe so , you should still keep an eye to the sky, but severe weather likelihood is minimal (bellow 30%)
Slight Risk- A slight risk of severe weather really means that there is a 30-40% chance of severe weather to effect your area. Tornadoes are possible, but usually not likely. Damaging winds and large hail are the greatest threats. an Isolated tornado should never be ruled out though. Make sure that you are keeping in check with your local weather station or the National weather service to make sure that you are aware of any severe weather is headed towards your area.
Moderate Risk- A moderate risk of severe weather usually is when there is a 40-55% chance of severe weather, and usually where the conditions are more favorable for severe storms. Tornadoes are likely in this area as conditions are ripe for severe weather, and usually the circumstances are right for tornado development. You should really make sure that you and your family are safe and remind everyone of all Tornado preparedness plans in case you need them. The national weather service does not issue these often, so when they do, usually it is a good indication that weather conditions are “moderately” favorable for producing severe weather and likely tornadoes as well.
High Risk- A high risk of severe weather is usually when there is a 55% or greater chance of severe weather over a given area. It is EXTREMELY rare to ever see the national weather service issue a High risk of severe weather, but if they do, there is a strong likelihood of Tornadoes due to the amount of instability in the atmosphere. You and your family should have you Tornado preparedness plans set and ready, tune into weather radio and your local weather station as well as the national weather service. Make sure mobile devices are fully charged in case a tornado does strike your place of dwelling to be able to make communication with others and let them know your status afterward. During a high risk you should not take anything lightly weather wise.
Now that we understand the Convective Outlook, lets look at something that is released the day of a severe weather episode or outbreak. Tornado Watches and warnings.
Tornado Watch: means that the conditions have created a significant risk of a tornado occurring. In contrast, a tornado warning is used when the severe weather is actually occurring. If severe weather actually does occur, a tornado watch will be upgraded to a tornado warning or a severe thunderstorm warning.
Tornado Warning: is an alert issued by the national weather service to warn that severe thunderstorms with tornadoes may be imminent. It can be issued after a tornado or funnel cloud has been spotted by eye, or more commonly if there are radar indications of tornado formation.
Now that we know what the watches and warnings are, im going to make it simple. When a tornado watch is issued, you should be on high alert, when a tornado warning is issued, you need to take IMMEDIATE ACTION. This is when you Tornado preparedness plans need to be executed. This is NOT when you want to be scrambling around trying to figure out what you are going to do, or go!
You notice a theme here? To have a Tornado preparedness plan. This needs to be thought out and planed well in advance and practiced periodically with your family. Especially in tornado prone areas, such as Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Nevada. Here are some things that you should consider while creating a preparedness plan.
- Where Am I going to go if a tornado Warning is issued and a tornado is imminent?
Recommendation- A Basement is the best place to consider, or even a storm shelter. Staying in a mobile home or trailer home though is NOT a good idea. Why not see if a neighbor has a basement, that you can be in as well? Is a ditch nearby that you can go to for safety? For those in an established house (not mobile or trailer) If all else fails a bathroom or a closet is the safest place to be as they are the most sturdy portion of the house.
- What if I am trapped inside my basement or storm shelter for an extended period of time?
Recommendation- This is where your preparation days in advance comes in. Make sure your phone is sufficiently charged. And inform family members and relatives in advance of where you will be if a tornado does strike so that someone will know where to look for you. Make sure you have a weather Radio, and flashlights, and a first aid kit. You may also want to include Non-Perishable food items, and bottled water in case there is a wait for a day or so.
- What if I live in a mobile home or trailer home? (Above)
Recommendation- “DO NOT STAY IN A MOBILE HOME DURING A TORNADO. Mobile homes can turn over during strong winds. Even mobile homes with a tie-down system cannot withstand the force of tornado winds.
Plan ahead. If you live in a mobile home, go to a nearby building, preferably one with a basement. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert and shield your head with your hands.
“If you live in a tornado-prone area, encourage your mobile home community to build a tornado shelter.” - CDC
“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.” -FEMA
Why not see if a neighbor has a basement, that you can be in as well? Is a ditch nearby that you can go to for safety? Or consider encouraging the community to build a storm shelter.
These are just some thoughts and ideas on staying safe in a tornado. The major factor that you should keep in mind is preparation If you don’t have your plans ready, do so now. Tornadoes can happen anywhere! Do not become complacent, make your plan, inform others about it, and practice it on occasion. Doing so is the first step in being “Weather Safe” From tornadoes and being “Safe and Not Sorry”