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Understanding the Anatomy of a Tornado

 
Tornadoes are a destructive weather force, found most frequently in the Midwestern area of the United States. They occur in the spring and summer of the year, which results in the deaths of approximately eight people, and causing one thousand-five hundred injuries annually.

 

If you live in an area that is prone to tornados, this and additional information will assist you in preparing for your survival should disaster strike.

 

Definition: A tornado is high speed rotation of an air column, which extends from a thunderstorm to the ground below. They are capable of tremendous destruction, having wind speeds upwards of 250 mph or more. The damage path of a severe tornado is approximately mile wide, and fifty miles in length.

 

Causes: Thunderstorms happen where warm, moist air meets east-moving cold fronts. They often produce destructive hail, strong winds, and also the much-feared tornado.

 

Conditions needed:  Storms that produce tornadoes move east during the afternoon hours and may form a dryline. In the springtime, a meteorological "dryline" occurs in the Central Plains of the U.S. This line separates warm, moist air to the east, from hot, dry air to the west. Normally, thunderstorms will develop along this line.

 

In the front range of the Rocky Mountains, in the Texas panhandle, and on the southern High Plains, there are thunderstorms that form when air closer to the ground flows up towards higher elevations. These thunderstorms are also capable of producing tornadoes.

 

Tropical storms and hurricanes can spawn tornadoes as they move over land. They usually occur to the right and forefront of the storm as it comes ashore.

 

Water Tornado: A "waterspout" is a low-intensity tornado that forms over warm water. They are most common along the Gulf Coast of the U.S. In the west, they occur with relatively cold "early or late" winter storms. Waterspouts occasionally move inland, then becoming tornadoes that can cause property damage and injuries.

  

Formation of tornadoes: Prior to the development of a thunderstorm, a change in the direction and increase in the speed of the wind, along with increasing height, creates a transparent and horizontal vortex in the lower atmosphere. The rising air inside the thunderstorm updraft shifts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical.

 

A rotation, anywhere from two to six miles wide will extends through the storm. The majority of violent tornadoes form inside this area of rotation. A lower cloud base will identify the area of rotation, which is known as a rotating wall cloud. Shortly, a strong tornado will develop. This storm will also produce damaging hail that may be as large as a grapefruit.

 

Protect yourself: Listen to NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts, as well as local commercial radio and television stations. This will keep you informed of developments and information important to your survival. Before the tornado season, prepare a plan for your home or business. Have frequent drills to stay mindful of the method. Keep a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.

 

For more information: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

How to Prepare for a Tornado How to prepare for a Tornado How to Survive a Tornado

How to Prepare for a Tornado

Tornados are awesome forces of nature. These high-powered, rotating funnel clouds can reach peak speeds of over 250 mph and cut mile wide paths of destruction. Tornados develop during specific patterns of weather. Most are caused by the clash of differing temperature air and humidity, typically generated through strong thunderstorms. Tornados (or twisters) may also accompany hurricanes or tropical storms that come ashore. Though they tend to occur between 3-9 p.m., they can strike anytime and transpire all year long.

Although we know much about tornados, our response time is minimal. A mere 18 minutes (or less) is the average notice given to seek shelter. Why is this? Tornados appear quickly and unlike weather patterns of hurricanes are quite small. Once the National Weather Service announces a tornado warning, you have just a few moments to perform the correct measures for saving yourself and your family.

Preparedness for tornados starts long before you hear warnings and the sky takes on an ominous greenish cast. There are measures you can do today to begin planning for these intense life-threatening storms.


Getting Ready for a Twister:

  1. Know the risks. Most people aren’t injured by the twister itself, but by flying objects swirling in horrific wind velocities. The force of a tornado can be strong enough to drive steel rods into buildings, pick up vehicles and drop them miles away in a tangled mass of metal and level entire communities. You don’t want to be unprotected from the debris these funnel clouds toss about.
  2. Get informed. The best way to stay informed about threatening conditions is not through television, internet or cell phone alerts. Power outages are common in all severe thunderstorms. Pick up a weather radio that runs on battery back-up and has regular bulletins from the National Weather Service for current updates.
  3. Understand terminology: A “Tornado Watch” defines conditions which are favorable for developing a tornado. Be ready if a watch is announced to seek shelter. “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted and is imminent. Immediate shelter must be obtained. Make sure all family members understand these terms.
  4. Identify shelter areas. The safest places are underground- storm cellars, basements, crawl spaces. If there isn’t one readily available, an inner reinforced room (without windows) such as a closet or bathroom is a good option. Bathrooms work particularly well, since plumbing in the walls adds support against strong winds. Closets under stairwells are often excellent choices.
  5. Consider the options. In some cases, bathrooms or closets are on outside walls or have other risky options like windows, skylights or glass ceilings. Elect for interior hallways in an emergency. Consider asking a nearby neighbor with a basement if you can seek shelter there during threatening conditions. Advance planning this is imperative. Arrange for entry if your neighbor isn’t home when a tornado occurs.
  6. Test your safe zone. Make sure your family knows the shelter areas and that there is enough room for everyone. Children benefit practicing this as a drill. All family members should know where to go quickly and how to know there is tornado potential.
  7. Assume the position. If a tornado does strike your home, you’ll want to be low and protecting your head, even in your shelter area. Strong winds can still penetrate some rooms. Many families take mattresses, blankets or pillows into their shelter areas. If you are using a basement or closet as a shelter, you can create a corner with these items stashed for emergency use. When a bathroom or hallway is the shelter, decide in advance what you can quickly grab on your way.
  8. Emergency contact lists. Establish out of state contact persons in case family members are separated. Include fire, rescue, and medical and utility company numbers. Make sure all family member cell phone numbers are listed. Place a copy in your shelter area, in children’s backpacks and vehicles.
  9. Make a kit. Almost universally, the strong storms that accompany tornados also knockout power and phone lines. Downed trees and debris in roads can disrupt travel. Expect this. Though rare, tornados have been reported to stay on the ground for up to 50 miles and have been as much as a mile wide. Other storm systems have spawned multiple tornados, which touch down over large geographic areas. This means a widespread region can be affected.

You could be without power, drinking water and transportation for several days. Create an emergency kit that carries you and your family through at least 72 hours. Ideally, this should be stored in your deemed shelter area. However, if you don’t have enough room in your place of refuge, consider keeping your survival kit at a neighbor’s house or tucked in tight fitting lidded plastic tubs in a closet or under a bed.

Tornados pass very quickly. Since most of your kit below is for the aftermath of a storm, keep a backpack with just a few necessary items handy to grab for entering small closets or bathrooms used as shelter areas. Include in this flashlights and portable radio, spare batteries, extra car keys, mini first aid kit and a couple of bottles of water and non-perishable snacks. Add a map to track location of tornados. Maintain a fire extinguisher in your shelter area. Make sure it’s charged and family members know how to use it.


72 Hour Emergency Kit:

  • Water. 1 gallon/per person, per day. Keep at least 3 days of water supplied. Include plain household bleach and containers for disinfecting additional water if needed.
  • Food. Choose non-perishable items, such as granola or energy bars, canned meals, tuna, or soups, peanut butter, crackers, trail mix. Infants or pets should have supplies as well. Include manual can opener, pot or pans for heating, paper plates/utensils and sterno cans for heating. BUT do not use any source of flame unless you are certain there is no risk of gas leaks.
  • Substantial First Aid Kit with a Manual. Bear in mind that rescue workers may not be able to reach you for extended periods of time. You may have to perform basic first aid, CPR and life saving skills. Don’t mince on your first aid kit for emergencies. Make sure it’s well stocked. Know how to use each item. Consider taking a first aid or CPR class in advance.
  • Blankets, Warm Clothing, Gloves, Sturdy Shoes. (store these in large, waterproof bags or containers)
  • Essentials. Prescription medication and copies of prescription refill, spare contacts or eye glasses, flashlights, candles, matches, extra batteries, trash bags, ABC fire extinguisher, portable radio, waterproof tarp, disinfectant wipes, toothpaste/toothbrushes, personal care items, (deodorant, soap, shampoo, feminine products), toilet paper.
  • Tools. Pliers, hammer, rope, duct tape, ax, shovel, sharp knife and crescent wrench.
  • Priority Items. A small amount of cash, copies of emergency contact information, driver’s license(s) and insurance papers. In worst case scenarios, your entire home could be destroyed or deemed unsafe. Keep a copy of important documents in a safety deposit box as well as in your kit.
  • Comfort items. Paper and pen, plus books, cards or small stuffed animals to pass the time and for soothing children.

A word of caution: Mobile homes are notorious death traps during the strong winds of twisters. Plan to evacuate by selecting a nearby secure refuge. Many trailer parks have a designated storm shelter. Other options are hospitals, police stations or any reinforced community building that is open to the public. Investigate possibilities before a tornado strikes and determine a shelter site for your family.

Elderly or disabled mobile home residents may have challenges getting to shelter quickly. Advance planning for these individuals is absolutely crucial.

According to new studies, getting into your vehicle, buckling up and driving at right angles to the storm to avoid the path of a tornado, seems safer than staying in a mobile home. In a recent wind test, some motor vehicles fared better in lower tornado strength winds than mobile homes. However, there is no substitute for a sturdy building as a tornado shelter. Get into a ditch or a depression and cover your head in lieu of staying in mobile homes, recreational vehicles or unsafe buildings.


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How to prepare for a Tornado
 
Tornadoes occur frequently enough.  They can occur at any time of the year but there is a tornado season between April and September, although most occur in June and July. 
 

Quick Facts on Tornadoes
  • Tornadoes occur most frequently in the U.S.
  • Tornadoes are rotating columns of violent winds.
  • They can displace themselves very quickly, about 44 mph, and destroy everything in their path.  In other cases, they are minimal and touch very few areas.
  • Whether they are large or small, they can uproot trees, toss cars around, and destroy houses and other structures.
  • Tornadoes mainly occur in the afternoons and early evenings but have been sighted at night.

Warning Signs of A Tornado
  • Violent thunderstorms accompanied by lightning and frequent thunder. 
  • A dark sky often with greenish or yellowish clouds.
  • A rumbling or whistling sound.
  • A funnel-shaped cloud usually at the base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail.
 American System of Tornado Prevention
 
The government must advise the public when weather conditions can cause a tornado.  They will usually do so on all mediums: radio, TV, Internet, newspapers, and special phone lines.
  • If you live in a region where the risk for tornadoes is elevated, listen to the radio during violent storms.
  • If you learn of a tornado warning in your region, seek shelter and follow the upcoming instructions.

How to Survive a Tornado

Tornado

Although they blow through in a matter of moments, tornadoes are responsible for an average of 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries a year. More than 800 tornadoes are reported each year, occurring all throughout the United States. Though more common in spring and summer months, twisters can happen in any season. Ripping through the country, leaving a trail of property damage and human casualties, a tornado isn’t a force of nature to be ill-prepared for or underestimated. Winds generated can be up to 300 miles per hour-packing enough force to hurl vehicles the length of a football field or to crush a home in seconds.

Unlike many other weather events, such as tropical storms or hurricanes, tornadoes don’t give us much warning. They can appear suddenly, directly over homes and towns. The average warning of about 18 minutes is quite minimal.

With a few moments notice, do you know the proper techniques to save yourself if a tornado is imminent?


Tornado Survival Tips:

  1. Pay attention to weather reports. Tornadoes most often accompany severe thunderstorms. Any serious system moving toward your vicinity may have the potential to generate life-threatening tornadoes. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Watches are signs that a tornado may occur. Be ready for emergency action.
  2. Some communities sound a siren when a tornado has been sighted in close proximity. If you hear this-seek shelter immediately!
  3. Do not depend totally on weather service bulletins or community alarms to alert you, however. In the right conditions, funnel clouds can develop instantly. Keep your eyes open.
  4. Look for dark or greenish sky, large sudden hail or rotating clouds.
  5. Listen for a loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  6. If a Tornado Warning is issued or there are signs of one approaching, immediately seek shelter.
  7. If there is time, take a battery operated radio, local map, first aid kit, car keys and flashlight into your place of refuge with you. Optimally, this should be packed in advance and left in your storm shelter or easily accessible for emergencies. Use the map to track locations of the tornado as it approaches.
  8. Find refuge in a basement, crawl space or windowless interior room on the ground floor. Windowless, first floor, interior bathrooms or closets are also good choices in lieu of basements.
  9. Crouch low against the wall or in the bathtub. Protect your head and neck. You can use pillows, sofa cushions or a mattress for this purpose. Getting under heavy furniture is also advisable.
  10. Deluxe Survival Honey Bucket Kit

  11. If a tornado does hit your home, shut your eyes, stay low and continue to protect your head while in your place of shelter. Don’t open doors or windows, go outdoors or attempt to outrun the tornado.
  12. Stay in your place of shelter until the National Weather Service announces the warning has expired. Often tornadoes may occur in groups or clusters. Wait till it’s deemed safe.

Make Sure to stock up on emergency food, water and a first aid kit along with sleeping accessories to prepare for an emergency today. We recommend you own a Deluxe Honey Bucket Kit as it includes a lot of what you will need for the family during an emergency.


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How to Survive a Tornado While Traveling

What if a tornado strikes while you are in a vehicle? The best options are immediately locating a secure building that offers shelter or avoiding the path of the storm. If severe thunderstorm warnings or tornado watches are being broadcast, you should begin the process of finding a protected location.

Know the direction inclement weather is coming from. Attempt to move away from the path as you seek safety. Drive in right angles from the direction of the storm, if that will move you away from its course.

Keep your eyes open for greenish or dark skies, hail, and swirling clouds. These are signs of conditions that may include a developing or looming tornado. Look for persistent rotation of low lying clouds or whirling dust or debris. Some tornadoes don’t have a distinguishable funnel, though the debris and wind pattern is evident. Heavy downpours that precede intense wind (or conversely an unnatural calm) may also be signs of impending tornadoes. Listen for freight train-like sounds. Unlike thunder, the sounds of a tornado approaching are constant.

Nighttime travelers should be observant for bluish-white flashes of light close to the ground which signal power lines breaking in strong wind. Watch for low lying funnel shaped clouds silhouetted by lightening.

According to the Northeast States Emergency Consortium, (NESEC) tornadoes travel at speeds up to 70 mph, hence you can be easily overcome by dangerous winds and debris. Seeking safe shelter is the most lifesaving technique you can practice. When you are in a wide open traffic-free area, with no obvious shelter, escape by car might still be viable if the tornado is distant and not headed toward you.

Upon spotting a tornado, observe its movement for a few seconds and compare position with a stationary object. If the tornado appears to moving to the left or right, go the opposite direction. Keep watch on the tornado and continue to seek refuge.

Shelter alternatives when you are traveling might be interior restaurant bathrooms, public rest stops, local hospitals, police stations or reinforced buildings. Get away from windows and outside walls as much as possible. Choose inner lower level or ground floor rooms. Crouch low and cover your head.

If a tornado appears suddenly in close proximity before you can reach shelter; new guidelines released in 2007 from the American Red Cross suggest doing the following:

  • “Buckle your seat belt and try to drive at right angles to the storm movement and out of the path of the tornado.
  • If strong winds and flying debris occur while you are driving, pull over and park, keeping seat belts on and the engine running. Crouch down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.”

According to the American Red Cross, follow the same guidelines if you are caught by an approaching tornado with no appropriate shelter. Wooden and pole barns, mobile homes, RV’s and wide open areas are dangerous due to high winds and flying debris. New studies suggest that vehicles, such as sedans and mini-vans, fared better in tornado strength winds than mobile homes, RV’s or poorly reinforced buildings. Getting in a vehicle and seeking shelter is safer than riding out the storm in one of these.

It is a popular and deadly myth that overpasses are safe spots during a tornado. The intense winds of a twister may actually increase when caught in these confined perimeters. When hit straight-on by a tornado, those sheltering in overpasses are often killed or seriously injured by flying objects and intense winds.

As a last resort, if you can’t get to a safe building or away from danger by vehicle, lie in a depression or ditch. Cover your head with your hands. Shut your eyes tightly to keep blowing dust and debris out. According to the NESEC, there is a zero wind speed that occurs very close to the ground of traveling tornadoes. If you are low in a depression or ditch, it’s safer than being upright.

Make sure you aren’t close to any large heavy object (including your vehicle) that may be thrown by the tornado.

This policy change appears to differ from the National Weather Service, who advocates lying in a ditch and evacuating your car- as opposed to staying buckled up and crouching low. There are numerous accounts of people who remained in their vehicle, only to be picked up or rolled numerous times by gale force winds. Injuries in this case were often significant.

Grave danger exists from blowing debris. Lying in a ditch may be risky due to the potential from this element. However, remaining in your vehicle, (as stated above) present clear hazards during a tornado.

The point remains- the only safe place to be during a tornado is in a sturdy shelter. Use your vehicle only to get to safety or to drive away from severe weather. Always remember to keep a first aid kit in your vehicle, along with a blanket and flashlight for this and any roadside emergencies.


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What To Do During a Tornado

 

If You Are At Home
  • Go into the basement or seek shelter in a small, windowless room in the interior of the ground floor.  This can be a bathroom, enclosed hallway, or closet.
  • If you don’t have a basement, protect yourself by getting under a heavy table or desk.
  • Make sure to stay away from windows, doors, and exterior walls.  
If You Have A Farm
  • Livestock hear and feel tornadoes from a distance.  If your family or home are at risk, don’t worry about the livestock.  But, if your personal safety is not at risk, you may have just the time to open the barricades containing your animals.  Open the barriers and if necessary, leave the region in the area opposite from the projected path of the tornado.

If You Are in An Office or Apartment Building
  • Shelter yourself in an interior room or hallway, ideally in the basement or ground floor.
  • Don’t use elevators.
  • Stay away from windows.  
If You Are in a Gym, Church, or Auditorium
  • These large buildings with high roofs may collapse if a tornado touches down on them.
  • If possible, seek shelter in a different building.
  • If you find yourself in one of these buildings and cannot leave, seek shelter under a solid object like a heavy table or desk.  
If You Are in a Mobile Home or Car
  • Avoid staying in a mobile home or car.  Almost half of the deaths caused by tornadoes occur in mobile homes.
  • Seek shelter elsewhere, preferably in a solid building. Emergency Vehicle Car Kit
  • If no shelter is available, lay down in a ditch as far away from the mobile home or car as possible.  Because flooding may occur, stay alert and be prepared to move.
  • If you see a tornado in the horizon, seek the nearest solid shelter.
  • If the tornado is close by, abandon your car and lay down in a depression or ditch in the ground.
  • Always have an emergency car kit that you can take along if you need to leave your car.

In All Situations
  • Stay as close to the ground as possible and protect your head.   Watch out for objects thrown around by the hurricane.
  • Don’t try to approach the tornado.  Tornadoes are unpredictable and can change their path without warning.
  • Tornadoes can be deceiving.  It may look like they aren’t moving but in reality, may be moving towards you.