Disaster Preparedness Guide: Tornadoes
Tornado preparedness guide
Tornadoes are violent windstorms that can easily rip up buildings, trees, and cars and turn them into deadly projectiles that fly through the air at hundreds of miles per hour. Tornadoes can occur in any state and any season, and they cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage each year.
Thoughtful preparation can help reduce the toll a tornado takes on your home and family. You can start by reading this short guide, which covers the dos and don'ts of tornado preparedness.
Facts about tornadoes
Tornado winds can reach up to 300 miles per hour.
Some tornadoes leave a trail of destruction 50 miles long.
Tornado Alley stretches from North Dakota to Texas. This area is highly susceptible to tornadoes, but the storms can actually occur in all 50 states.
Tornadoes are most common in the south between March and May. In the north, they're most common between June and August.
Most tornadoes strike between three and nine p.m., but they can occur at any time of day.
Tornadoes can move across land at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
The average warning time for a tornado is 13 minutes.
You may not be able to see the rotating column of air that makes up the tornado until it has picked up enough dirt and debris to make it visible.
What to do before a tornado occurs
Tornado preparedness is key to tornado survival. Here are some important steps to take.
Know the warning signs. You can recognize a tornado by its rotating funnel cloud, but this is not always easy to see. Other warning signs include an approaching cloud of debris, a greenish sky, and a loud roar that sounds like a freight train.
Determine the best place to take shelter. Ideally, you'd be able to get to a specially designated storm shelter either at your home or in your neighborhood. If you're not able to reach such a shelter, however, you should retreat to a windowless room on the lowest level of your home, workplace, or whatever building you happen to be in.
Put together a kit of emergency supplies. This should include several days' worth of food, water, and medication. It should also include extra clothing, important household documents, and anything else you might need in the days after the tornado.
Consider trimming back your landscaping. If you have any large trees up close to your home, you may want to consider cutting them down so they don't fall on your house in the event of a tornado.
What to do when a tornado occurs
When you hear the sound of a tornado approaching -- or if you hear local warning sirens -- take these steps as quickly as possible.
Head immediately to your designated shelter. Do not leave for any reason until the storm is over.
Add an extra layer of protection to your body. Shield your neck with your arms. Cover yourself with blankets, or crawl beneath a piece of furniture to give yourself extra coverage against falling debris.
Monitor weather reports closely. Stick close to home (or a designated shelter area), and keep an eye on weather reports for important updates.
A note about driving during a tornado
Some people think they can outrun a tornado in their car; this is not a safe practice. Similarly, it's not a good idea to shelter beneath an overpass in your car. During a tornado, cars can flip and structures can break down. Instead, try to get to a safe building if you can. Otherwise, the National Weather Service suggests two options: huddle low in your car, cover your head and neck with your arms, and protect your body with a blanket or coat if one is available. Or, leave your car and take shelter in a low area, such as a ditch.
What to do after a tornado occurs
Once a tornado is over, you still have to be careful. Because tornadoes can damage the structural integrity of buildings, you shouldn't go inside one until you know that it's safe. Similarly, you should keep an eye out for downed power lines and broken utility lines and avoid them. Alert the authorities to any problems you see, but don't go near them or try to fix them yourself.
If you become trapped during a tornado, make noise so rescuers can find you. If you have a phone, try texting or even calling. It's best not to shout, though, because this could cause you to breathe in toxic particles from the debris around you.
If you're faced with a clean-up project after a tornado, wear thick-soled shoes or boots and gloves while handling materials. This will help keep you safe from stepping on nails or cutting yourself on jagged pieces of debris. All property damage should be documented with photographs and in writing. Send this information to your insurance company so they can begin processing your claim.
In the event of a tornado, stay away from windows or doors. There's a chance that flying debris could break through them and injure you.
Don't attempt to outrun a tornado in your car. Tornadoes move fast, and they can throw debris a long way.
Don't yell or kick up debris if you are trapped. Remain calm, breathe through a cloth or mask to avoid inhaling dust particles, and signal for help by knocking on a wall, banging on a pipe, or using your smartphone if it's available.
Q. What should mobile home dwellers do in the event of a tornado?
A. A mobile home is much more susceptible to destruction by a tornado than a traditional home with a solid foundation. If possible, mobile home dwellers should seek refuge in a designated storm shelter or a nearby house, store, or other building.
Q. Should I open the windows of my house to equalize the pressure?
A. No. The notion that this is a good practice is a myth. Opening windows only puts you at greater risk of injury and can cause more damage to your home.
Q. Is there always hail before a tornado?
A. Large hail may signal a tornado approaching, but this is not always the case. Similarly, lighting, heavy winds, and rain can signal the approach of a tornado. If you notice any of these signs, check with your local weather station to see if a tornado is heading your way.
Kailey is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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