Are You Prepared for the Tornado Season?

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Are You Prepared for the Tornado Season?

Although tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, tornado season is already underway, with destructive tornadoes tearing through Texas during the second week of March. Perhaps you live in the downtown area of a major city and believe you are completely immune from tornadoes. While it is true that the odds are lower due to high buildings creating much smaller potential paths, tornadoes have hit downtown areas. St Louis seems to be especially prone to this weather disaster, sustaining tornadoes on March 8, 1871 (9 deaths), May 27, 1876 (255 deaths), September 29, 1927 (28 deaths), February 10, 1959 (21 deaths), and March 31, 2007 (no deaths). Other downtown areas in U.S. cities that have witnessed tornadoes in the last 20 years include San Antonio, Tampa, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Nashville, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Raleigh.

Since 2007, the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale has been utilized to estimate the intensity of tornadoes, replacing the original Fujita Scale devised in 1971. The six categories on the EF scale are EF0 to EF5. Damage to structures is the primary criteria used to determine the tornado intensity and EF number. Confirmed tornadoes with no reported damage, e.g. those that stay in open fields, are always rated EF0, with winds between 65 and 85 miles per hour. EF5 tornadoes have wind speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour and cause complete destruction of structures.

Five Interesting Tornado Facts

  • “Tornado alley” is comprised of Nebraska, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. Tornadoes strike these states regularly in the spring and early summer.
  • A tornado typically starts as a white or gray cloud, but if it lasts awhile, dirt and debris picked up by the funnel give it a black appearance.
  • A tornado in Oklahoma destroyed an entire motel and its sign was found some time later in Arkansas.
  • Every year, about a thousand tornadoes touch down in the U.S., killing dozens of people. In fact, the U.S. incurs far more tornadoes than any other country.
  • The tristate tornado, which tore a path through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925, had the longest path length (219 miles), longest duration (about 3.5 hours), and fastest forward speed of any significant tornado ever recorded on earth (73 mph, 117 km/h).

Preparation and Safety Tips

  • Listen to weather reports and subscribe to emergency alerts so that you are aware of rapidly changing conditions.
  • Remember the difference between a tornado watch and warning. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for severe storms to produce a tornado. A tornado warning is more serious and means that a tornado has been spotted or is imminent based on radar.
  • Look out for a green sky, darkening sky, dark or rotating clouds, a roaring sound or loud hail, but keep in mind that tornadoes can come without any warning noise.
  • Keep an adequate supply of filtered water, nonperishable food, and can opener in your basement or a storm shelter.
  • Stock your home emergency kit and car emergency kit with essential medications, first aid supplies, and contact information of close friends and relatives.
  • Keep several flashlights and batteries on hand, preferably in your emergency kits.
  • Store copies of important documents in waterproof boxes.
  • Park your vehicle in a garage or covered structure and make sure it is filled with gas.
  • Ensure that lawn furniture and anything else outside is secured because flying objects can cause major damage and injury.
  • Stay low to or below the ground in an interior space away from windows, and cover your head with your hands and arms.
  • If there is no time to seek out adequate shelter, find a closet or climb into the bathtub and cover yourself with some sort of thick padding, such as a mattress or blankets.

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