A Mighty Wind
Tornado season officially kicks off in April, however now is a good time to plan and ensure everyone knows what to do in case of tornadic activity, both at home and at work. By NWS (National Weather Services) reports, there were 1522 reports of tornadoes in the United States in 2017 . Of those reported, 13 were classified as ‘killer tornados,’ which took 38 lives.
Reported 2017 tornado related fatalities by state:
- Mississippi- 5
- Texas- 4
- Louisiana- 3
- Illinois- 3
- Missouri- 1
- Oklahoma- 1
- Wisconsin- 1
- South Carolina- 1
Severe weather alerts for tornadoes come from the National Weather Service. Tornado alerts are divided into two levels: Watches and Warnings.
Tornado Watches are issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Their size can vary depending on the weather situation. They are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours. They typically are released well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. During the watch, people should review tornado safety rules, and be prepared to move into a safe place if threatening weather approaches.
A Tornado Warning is issued when a tornado is indicated by weather radar or has been sighted by spotters. The weather services will include where the tornado was located and what towns will be in its path. If the tornado affects the nearshore or coastal waters, it will be issued as the combined product--Tornado Warning and Special Marine Warning.
If the thunderstorm which is causing the tornado is also producing torrential rains, this warning may be combined with a Flash Flood Warning. After it has been issued, the affected National Weather Service will follow up periodically with Severe Weather Statements. These statements will contain updated information on the tornado, and they will also let the public know when the warning is no longer in effect.
Know Where To Go
Once a Tornado Warning has been issued an alarm of two horn blast will be sounded which will signal everyone to the interior assembly area. Each Emergency Preparedness Poster in our work areas identifies the exact location in which to assemble. Make a note during our emergency drills of where we gather for a head count. For Wachs, each building has identified central locations that provide the best protection in the event of a tornado.
In preparation at home move to a pre-designated shelter, preferably the basement or the lowest floor of your home. Seek cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, in a bathtub or workbench, and grab blankets with which to cover yourself, to protect you from flying debris.
If an underground shelter (basement) is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor, and crouch down close to the floor. Again, grab extra blankets to protect yourself from flying debris. Stay away from windows - as they can shatter due to flying debris and the force of the wind. If you are in a mobile home immediately move to a more substantial shelter.
If caught outdoors and you can seek shelter in a car, buckle your seatbelt and cover yourself with a blanket or coat to prevent being hit by flying debris. If caught outside and no vehicle is close, find a ditch, low lying area, or depression and crotch low or lay flat on the ground.
Prior preparation, communication, and practice are necessary to increase the chances of being able to respond to any event safely.