Ahead of the Storm: Tornado Preparedness Safety Tips

Ahead of the Storm: Tornado Preparedness Safety Tips

Imagine the sky turning dark and ominous, the wind picking up momentum, and hearing a loud roar that sounds like a freight train – these are some of the tell-tale signs of an impending tornado. What do you do next?

In this blog post we’ll discuss the best steps to take to prepare ahead of a potential tornado, and how to navigate the situation if and when a tornado touches down in your area. We’ll go over emergency essentials to have on hand and key tips for staying safe when a tornado hits, whether you're inside or outside.

The Riskiest Part of the Year

If you live in the U.S., tornado season tends to peak during spring and early summer, with the highest activity usually seen in April and May. But that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down during other times of the year. Tornadoes can hit anywhere, anytime, and in any season, so it’s essential to stay vigilant and informed about weather watches and warnings.

Tornado Watch Vs. Warning: Which is Worse?

Tornado Watch: A tornado watch is an alert issued by the National Weather Service indicating that conditions are favorable for the formation of tornadoes. It typically lasts for a few hours and covers a large geographic area, during which people should remain or get home and hunker down in case a tornado does form.

Tornado Warning: A tornado warning is a more serious alert and indicates that a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar in a specific area. When a tornado warning is issued, it means that people in the affected area should immediately take shelter and take the necessary steps to protect themselves until the warning is lifted.

Preparing for a Tornado Ahead of the Storm

Tornadoes are unpredictable and can strike at any moment. Therefore, being prepared for a tornado in advance is crucial to ensuring the safety of you and your family (including pets). Preparing an emergency kit that includes enough food, water, and supplies for at least 72 hours is a great first step. Don't forget to include a first aid kit, medications, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, and extra batteries. 

You should also determine your shelter location ahead of time. The best place to take shelter in your home during a tornado is in an interior room on the lowest level of the house, away from windows. Ideally this would be a basement or storm cellar. If you don't have a basement or cellar, choose the lowest most interior room, like a hallway, bathroom, or closet. It's important to avoid rooms with large windows, as they are vulnerable to shattering in the high winds and flying debris, which could cause serious injury.

Another important step is to register for emergency alerts in your area, giving you extra warning when a storm is approaching.

If (and ONLY IF) there's advanced notice of a stormfront moving in, secure outdoor items like lawn furniture and trash cans so they don't become dangerous flying projectiles. And finally, as mentioned above, keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs of an approaching tornado.

7 Distinct Signs of an Impending Tornado

Here are seven distinct signs that a tornado may be approaching:

A dark, sickly greenish sky: Tornadoes are often associated with a strange, greenish hue in the sky. They can also cause the sky to become dark enough during the day for streetlights to come on.

A wall of low-lying clouds: A shelf cloud may form at the front of the storm, usually at the boundary where hot and cold air meet.

A cloud of swirling debris: As the wind of the tornado circulates, it can pick up dirt and debris, creating a visible cloud of swirling debris that can precede the tornado itself.

Large hail (sometimes in the absence of rain): The presence of large hail in an otherwise dry environment is another sign of a potential tornado.

The sound of a freight train: Tornadoes can create a loud roar that sounds like a freight train or small jet engine, which some people describe as a continuous rumble. Alternately: Tornadoes have been associated with a peculiar and sudden silence within or shortly after a severe storm.

Changes in Wind: During a tornado, wind direction and speed can change rapidly. A sudden change in the wind and the feeling of pressure in your ears may signal an oncoming tornado.

A funnel cloud: This is a visible rotating column of air that extends from the base of a cloud towards the ground. Most tornadoes start as funnel clouds.

Twister Time: Tackling Tornado Warnings and Sightings with Smart Strategies

So, what do you do if a tornado warning is issued or a tornado is spotted in your area? If you're already inside, move to your predetermined shelter location immediately. Bring your emergency radio to listen to weather updates or stay informed through your smartphone.

Be aware that some tornadoes can be on the ground for a few seconds, while others can last for more than an hour. The average lifespan of a tornado is around 10 minutes. However, it's important to remember that tornadoes can be unpredictable and may change speed, direction, and intensity at any moment. It's crucial to keep monitoring local weather updates and take shelter until an "all-clear" is given.

For added protection when you take cover, you may choose to hide under sturdy furniture, to wear a helmet or hardhat, or to use a pillow or your arms to cover your head and neck.

Caught Out in a Twister: What to Do if You are Outside or in Your Vehicle When a Tornado Hits

If you are outside when a tornado strikes and can make it to a sturdy indoor shelter, do that. If you cannot make it to safe shelter, lie flat in the lowest-lying area you can find, like a ditch or gully, and protect your head with your hands.

Do NOT try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle. They can easily catch up. Instead, get out of the car, and again – shelter in the lowest depression in the ground you can find.

Do NOT seek shelter under an overpass. Contrary to popular belief, an overpass will not keep you safe. This is a dangerous myth. In some cases, they can even create wind tunnels that amplify wind speeds and make them more harmful and powerful.

Putting Tornado Preparedness into Practice

The best way to deal with a tornado is to be prepared. You can never predict when a tornado might hit, but you can be ready for it. From stocking up on emergency essentials like water and non-perishable food to recognizing the signs of a tornado, preparation is key. If a tornado warning is issued or spotted, it is important to act quickly and move to a safe place. Whether you are inside or outside, knowing what to do in an emergency can make all the difference. So next time you hear the warning siren or see the skies darken, take a deep breath and remember: you are prepared for whatever comes your way.

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