entering into the realm of tornado safety tips, please note
that tornadoes are incredibly unpredictable phenomena. We can
take steps to protect ourselves from their destruction, but
sometimes tornadoes are so powerful that even these steps can
be ineffective. These are usually huge F5 tornadoes, and, thankfully,
they are rare. Even though, these tips don't always save property
or lives, many more lives could be lost if safety measures are
not taken. The good news is that most tornadoes have short lives,
and, though they are unpredictable, most cause only a rather
small area of destruction.
-A plan of action is very important when preparing for tornado
season. These plans vary from house to house according to
the type of structure a family lives in.
-Make sure that there are protective materials (blankets,
pillows, mattresses, etc.) that are easily accessible near
your sheltering place to protect yourself and your family
from flying debris.
-Families need to practice their plan of action at least once
a year so that they can initiate their plan of action within
seconds if need be.
-Families need to designate a meeting place after the disaster
-When a tornado watch is issued for your area, review the
safety plan. Tune into local TV, and/or radio stations, or
an NOAA Weather Radio to remain on top of late breaking warnings
and safety issues. It is also a good idea that battery operated
radio be kept handy, in case electricity is lost.
-Don’t worry about opening the windows to equalize pressure
within the house. There is no evidence that this actually
makes a difference during a storm. In both situations, windows
-Think about the safety measures that you would take out in
public. Where would you go if you were in the local grocery
store or post office? What would you do if you were at a park
or other public function? Especially (but not limited to)
if the threat of tornadoes has been predicted, ask employees
what their specific plan of action is for tornadoes, including
where the nearest designated shelters are. All administrators
of schools, shopping centers, nursing homes, hospitals, sports
arenas, stadiums, mobile home communities and offices should
have a tornado safety plan in place, with easy-to-read signs
posted to direct everyone to a safe shelter. Many of these
places also often run emergency drills to prepare for such
instances. It is important to think about these situations
before you actually find yourself in the middle of them.
-When or if you should decide to build or buy a home, and
live East of the Rocky Mountains, you should pay attention
to the type of shelter that is offered. Underground shelters
such as basements or tornado cellars are the best choice.
If those are not an option, make sure that there is a sturdy,
interior room or closet on the ground floor that could serve
as a shelter room.
of an Impending Tornado: Although the National
Weather Service, through many technological advances, can
predict the occurrence of a tornado or a tornado outbreak.
All of these advances still do not take the place of watching
the skies. Even the National Weather Service relies on people
to physically monitor weather situations by following potentially
dangerous storms. There are several conditions that they watch
for that indicates the imminent formation of a tornado. These
conditions are listed below. Please remember that a visible
funnel is not a necessary thing for an actual tornado to occur.
persistent rotation in the cloud base.
-Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a
cloud base -- tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
-Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm
or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped
in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.
-Day or night - Loud, continuous roar or rumble,
which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.
-Night - Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes
at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery
lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being
snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
-Night - Persistent lowering from the cloud base,
illuminated or silhouetted by lightning -- especially if it
is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash
If a Tornado is Imminent:
In a house with a basement: Stay away from windows. Move
to the basement and seek shelter under heavy furniture. Cover
your body with a shield of insulating material such as heavy
blankets, pillows, or mattresses. Be sure to protect your
head and neck. Avoid sheltering in areas where there are heavy
objects on the floor above. These things could break through
and crush you.
In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment:
Stay away from windows. Go to the lowest floor, to an interior
room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in
an interior hallway. Make sure there are no windows. Make
yourself as small as possible by crouching into a ball like
position. Cover your head and neck with your hands. Attempt
to protect yourself with thick blankets and pillows to guard
against falling debris. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial
In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper:
Go to enclosed, windowless, interior room. Then crouch down
and cover your head and neck with your hands. If you can find
an interior stairwell that is not too crowded, take shelter
there by crouching and covering your head and neck. If there
is time, make your way down the stairwell, to a lower level.
Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the
power is lost.
In a mobile home: Under no condition should you remain
in a mobile home!!!Being outside is a better alternative to
remaining in a mobile home. Mobile homes are much lighter
and much more easily destroyed than other structures. If you
have time, go to a designated tornado shelter. If not, look
for a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance,
and seek shelter there. If even this is impossible, lie flat
on the ground and protect your head and neck. Try to lie in
an area where there are not any types of power lines near
you to avoid electrical shock should the lines fall.
At school:Schools are required to have a tornado safety
plan of action and must have regular drills to test this plan.
If there is a tornado, follow the practiced plan of action.
Once you take shelter, which is often an interior room or
hallway, crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your
head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open
rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous
in a tornado. Only try to drive out of the tornado's path,
if there is considerable distance between your vehicle and
the tornado, if traffic is light, and you have the ability
to make right angle turns away from the tornado. If this is
not an option, park the car as quickly and safely as possible,
out of traffic. [It is safer to get the car out of mud later
if necessary than to cause a crash.] Get out of the car and
seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country,
run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over
on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your
head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges,
which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little
protection against flying debris. It has actually been proven
that pressures increase under structures such as bridges and
highway over passes, and can be even more dangerous than remaining
in the open.
In the open outdoors: Try to find shelter in a sturdy
building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting
the back of your head and neck with your arms and hands. Stay
away from trees, power lines, and other large objects that
could become debris and dangerous.
In a shopping mall or large store: Remain calm. Watch
for others, who may start to panic and become dangerous to
yourself and others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior
bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away
In a church or theater: Remain calm. Watch for others,
who may start to panic and become dangerous to yourself and
others. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior
bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and
protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do
that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with
your arms or hands.
AFTER THE TORNADO...
Try to meet your family in a single predestined place and
wait for emergency personnel. Carefully provide help to those
who are injured. Watch for and stay away from power lines
and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying
electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails,
and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses
or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use
matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes
or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for
information and instructions from emergency crews or local
ROGER EDWARDS, SPC, NORMAN, OK, NOAA