Tornadoes are one of the most mystical happenings in nature, but one of the most destructive. The United States has the largest number of reported tornadoes annually than anywhere else in the world. While you may not live in an area where this weather is common, tornadoes have been recorded in each of the 50 states. By this alone, you should be prepared in the event you find yourself in the path of a tornado.
The first thing to understand is that tornadoes can, and have, literally come out of nowhere. While they generally sprout from severe thunderstorms, they have been known to appear on a sunny day without a strong storm system present. However, this is not very common. Since it is hard to predict tornadoes from simply looking at the sky, always turn to your local television or radio stations for forecasts and updates. It is best to be proactive about severe weather and remain aware of the changing weather conditions throughout the day. The National Weather Service will issue tornado watches and warnings to inform local residents of these changing conditions. To clarify, a tornado watch covers a wide area and means conditions are favorable for storms capable of producing tornadoes. A tornado warning covers a much smaller area and means a tornado has been spotted or indicated by radar. If a tornado warning has been issued for your area, as stated by your local media, take cover immediately. Fortunately, technology has evolved to the point where meteorologists can recognize the direction of a storm containing a tornado and determine the near-exact time it will hit towns along its path.
Once a tornado warning has been issued for your area, immediately move to the lowest level of your house. If you are in a basement, go to a corner so that you will be protected on two sides by walls. Additionally, get under a heavy table if one is available as added protection from flying debris. Covering yourself with heavy blankets will also help with protection from smaller debris. If you are not located in a building with a basement, go to the lowest floor and move to the center of the building. A rule of thumb is to put as many walls as possible between you and the tornado. Bathrooms are good areas to use as the pipes in the walls provide extra stability.
Wherever you go, make sure a television and battery operated radio are present in this area so you can receive immediate updates on the storm’s path. Flashlights and candles are a necessity as well as a first aid kit. In this day and age, it is also vital to have at least one cell phone with you for extreme emergencies.
If you find yourself outside during a tornado, go to the nearest building immediately. If there are no buildings nearby, DO NOT drive to a highway overpass and crawl underneath it. Many believe hiding under a bridge will serve as protection, but this is an area where wind speeds actually increase when a tornado passes through. The best recommendation is to get to the lowest point in the ground, such as a ditch next to the road, and create a low profile. DO NOT try to outrun a tornado in your car and DO NOT stay in your car. People have survived after being caught outside with no buildings for protection.
The sad reality is that in the event a tornado strikes, there is very little you can do but protect yourself and hope for the best. However, with an eye to the sky and an ear to the television or radio, you can be proactive about preparing for the worst. The aforementioned protective measures have saved countless lives and while tornadoes continue to remain unpredictable, you can take the right steps to ensure the safety of you and your family.