Safety Where You Live
Again, the key to tornado survival is a safety plan. Your plan at home should be known by everyone in the home and practiced at least twice each year. Children who may be at home alone should know what to do and where to go even if no adults are there.
Your selection of a tornado shelter in your home will depend on many factors. Use the basic guidelines and the information below to find your tornado safety area. When selecting your shelter area, remember that your goals should be:
Get as low as possible – completely underground is best.
Put as many barriers between you and the outside as possible.
It is not the wind inside and around a tornado that kills and injures people – it’s the flying debris that’s in the wind. Items can fly through the air (broken glass, etc) or fall down (could range from small objects to objects the size and weight of cars)
Storm Cellars and Basements
Being completely underground is the best place to be in a tornado. If you have an underground storm cellar, use it. Make sure the door is securely fastened.
If the entrance to your storm cellar is outside, you should allow plenty of time to get to the shelter before the storm arrives. If you wait until the storm is upon you, you may be exposed to wind, hail, rain, lightning and maybe even flying debris as you go to the cellar.
A basement is also a good shelter in most cases. If your basement is not totally underground, or has outside doors or windows, stay as far away from them as possible. Items from above could fall into the basement, so it’s a good idea to get under a stairwell or a piece of sturdy furniture. If possible, avoid seeking shelter underneath heavy objects on the floor above. Use coverings (pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, coats, etc) and helmets to shield your head and body and to protect yourself from flying debris.
A reinforced safe room (or above-ground tornado shelter) is as good as an underground shelter in most situations. Safe rooms are specially-designed reinforced tornado shelters built into homes, schools and other buildings. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in close cooperation with experts in wind engineering and tornado damage, has developed detailed guidelines for constructing a safe room. For more, go to the FEMA Saferoom webpage.
If No Underground or Reinforced Shelter is Available
If you’re like most people, you don’t have an underground shelter. In this case, you need to find a location that is…
As close to the ground as possible
As far inside the building as possible
Away from doors, windows and outside walls
In as small a room as possible
If you don’t have a safe room, basement or underground storm shelter, what should you do? Remembering the basics of tornado safety, you should look around your home to determine the best place.
Here are Some Ideas
Bathrooms MAY be a good shelter, provided they are not along an outside wall and have no windows. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing magically safe about getting in a bathtub with a mattress. In some cases, this might be a great shelter. However, it depends on where your bathroom is. If your bathroom has windows and is along an outside wall, it’s probably not the best shelter.
Bathrooms have proven to be adequate tornado shelters in many cases for a couple of reasons. First, bathrooms are typically small rooms with no windows in the middle of a building. Secondly, it is thought that the plumbing within the walls of a bathroom helps to add some structural strength to the room.
However, with tornadoes there are no absolutes, and you should look closely at your home when determining your shelter area.
A small interior closet might be a shelter. Again, the closet should be as deep inside the building as possible, with no outside walls, doors or windows. Be sure to close the door and cover up.
If a hallway is your shelter area, be sure to shut all doors. Again, the goal is to create as many barriers as possible between you and the flying debris in and near a tornado. To be an effective shelter, a hallway should as be far inside the building as possible and should not have any openings to the outside (windows and doors).
The space underneath a stairwell could be used as a shelter.
Generally speaking, you should not leave your home in your vehicle when a tornado threatens. In most cases, you will have a better chance of surviving by staying put in your home. Every home is different – there is no absolute safe place in every home. Use the guidelines. Unless you are deep underground, there is no such thing as a 100% tornado-proof shelter. Freak accidents can happen.
The basic tornado safety guidelines apply if you live in an apartment. Get to the lowest floor, with as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
Apartment dwellers should have a plan, particularly if you live on the upper floors. If your complex does not have a reinforced shelter, you should make arrangements to get to an apartment on the lowest floor possible.
In some cases, the apartment clubhouse or laundry room may be used as a shelter, provided the basic safety guidelines are followed. You need to have a shelter area that’s accessible at all times of the day or night.
Even an EF-1 tornado, typically considered a “weak tornado”, will most likely severely damage a mobile home and/or roll it over. This is why tornado safety plans are so crucial for residents of mobile homes!
Pictured below is a destroyed mobile home southeast of Wewoka from a tornado in 1998. This is an example of what an EF-1 tornado can do to a mobile home.
Mobile homes are especially susceptible to high winds from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. You will likely not be safe in a mobile home, whether you’re in a hallway, a closet or a bathroom. Mobile homes cannot stand up to even a weak tornado and you should make plans BEFORE the storm to get to a safe shelter. Due to potentially short notice of tornadoes, residents should consider executing their safety plan when a watch is issued – do not wait for the warning.
Taking cover under sturdy furniture, in a bathtub or closet or under a mattress will be meaningless in a mobile home if the home itself is destroyed, blown over, or rolled over by tornado or severe thunderstorm winds. Get out of mobile homes and find a more substantial shelter as quickly as possible.
Again, you need to have access to a shelter that is available at any time of the day or night.
Here’s some NWS information that may prove helpful:
The most important things to remember are:
GET IN – If you are outside, get inside. If you’re already inside, get as far into the middle of the building as possible.
GET DOWN – Get underground if possible. If you cannot, go to the lowest floor possible.
COVER UP – Flying and falling debris are a storm’s number one killer. Use pillows, blankets, coats, helmets, etc to cover up and protect your head and body from flying debris.
Hail, maybe large, is among the possibilities with today’s storms. Thus, you might want to consider pulling your car into a garage or other covering this afternoon and evening and tonight. Just a suggestion.
Whether you plan on being at the office, around the house or outside this evening, stay informed about the weather. Have a plan of where you would seek shelter if needed. Don’t wait until you see or hear a severe storm. Again, plan ahead. This is especially important at night when you may not see it or hear it.
Just thought I would take this opportunity to mention something you may or may not already know. The National Weather Service’s Norman Forecast Office covers 48 counties in Oklahoma as well as 8 counties in western, north Texas.
As for Oklahoma coverage from other NWS forecast offices:
The Amarillo, Texas forecast office covers the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Tulsa covers areas of eastern and northeastern Oklahoma.
Shreveport, La. covers areas of southeastern Okla.
Many areas of Oklahoma have received rain in recent days, weeks. So obviously more storms today could heighten the risk of flooding.
At Flash Flood Watch has been issued from 6 p.m. today through Thursday morning. Here’s that statement:
THUNDERSTORMS WITH INTENSE RAINFALL EXPECTED TONIGHT…
.A COLD FRONT WILL COMBINE WITH RICH GULF MOISTURE TO PRODUCE
STRONG THUNDERSTORMS THIS EVENING THROUGH TONIGHT. THUNDERSTORMS WILL
FORM NEAR THE COLD FRONT IN NORTHERN OKLAHOMA EARLY THIS EVENING…
AND WILL SPREAD TOWARD CENTRAL OKLAHOMA BY MID EVENING…AND
SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA OVERNIGHT. RAINFALL WILL BE VERY HEAVY WITH THE
INITIAL LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS. OTHER STORMS ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP
BEHIND THE COLD FRONT…LEADING TO A PROLONGED PERIOD OF MODERATE
TO HEAVY RAIN. LOCAL AREAS OF FLOODING AND FLASH FLOODING ARE
LIKELY WITHIN THE WATCH AREA.
…FLASH FLOOD WATCH IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM CDT THIS EVENING THROUGH
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NORMAN HAS ISSUED A
* FLASH FLOOD WATCH FOR PORTIONS OF CENTRAL OKLAHOMA…EAST
CENTRAL OKLAHOMA…NORTHERN OKLAHOMA…NORTHWEST OKLAHOMA…
SOUTHEAST OKLAHOMA…SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA AND SOUTHWEST
OKLAHOMA…INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING AREAS…IN CENTRAL
LINCOLN…LOGAN…MCCLAIN…OKLAHOMA…PAYNE AND POTTAWATOMIE.
IN EAST CENTRAL OKLAHOMA…PONTOTOC AND SEMINOLE. IN NORTHERN
OKLAHOMA…GARFIELD…GRANT…KAY AND NOBLE. IN NORTHWEST
OKLAHOMA…ALFALFA…BLAINE AND MAJOR. IN SOUTHEAST OKLAHOMA…
COAL AND HUGHES. IN SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA…GARVIN. IN SOUTHWEST
* FROM 6 PM CDT THIS EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY MORNING
* A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS WITH INTENSE RAINFALL…WILL BE FOLLOWED
BY A PROLONGED PERIOD OF MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN.
* MINOR TO MODERATE FLOODING IS LIKELY IN LOW LYING AND POORLY
DRAINED AREAS…AND ALONG SMALL STREAMS. ALSO…WITH THE GROUND
ALREADY SATURATED BY RECENT RAIN…FLOODING MAY SPREAD INTO
LOCATIONS THAT DO NOT COMMONLY EXPERIENCE FLOODING.
A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD
TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION.
YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION
SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED.
(From Bryan Painter, at NWS-Norman Forecast Office) Just before 1 p.m. this Regional Weather Discusssion was released. Here’s what they’re looking at this afternoon and into this evening.
AROUND 1245 PM…SURFACE OBSERVATIONS INDICATED A SLOW MOVING
COLD FRONT EXTENDING FROM NORTHERN PARTS OF THE TEXAS PANHANDLE INTO
FAR NORTHWEST OKLAHOMA AND NORTH CENTRAL KANSAS. A DRYLINE WAS
LOCATED AHEAD OF THE FRONT IN CENTRAL SECTIONS OF THE TEXAS
PANHANDLE. THE DRYLINE WILL CONTINUE TO MIX EASTWARD THIS AFTERNOON
AS TEMPERATURES WARM INTO THE 90S. CONVERGENCE ALONG THE DRYLINE
MAY BE SUFFICIENT FOR ISOLATED THUNDERSTORM DEVELOPMENT BY LATE THIS
AFTERNOON ACROSS SOUTHWEST OKLAHOMA AND WESTERN NORTH TEXAS.
A MUCH BETTER CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE ALONG THE COLD FRONT.
VERY WARM TEMPERATURES ABOVE THE SURFACE WILL LIKELY INHIBIT THUNDERSTORMS
ALONG THE FRONT UNTIL LATE THIS AFTERNOON. HOWEVER STORMS WILL LIKELY
FORM AS HEATING CONTINUES AND AN UPPER LEVEL SYSTEM MOVES ACROSS THE
NORTHERN AND CENTRAL PLAINS. A VERY UNSTABLE AIRMASS WILL BE IN PLACE
AHEAD OF THE FRONT SO STORMS THAT FORM WILL LIKELY BECOME SEVERE
QUICKLY. THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO BECOME MORE NUMEROUS DURING
THE EARLY EVENING HOURS.
CURRENT INDICATIONS FAVOR THUNDERSTORMS FORMING NEAR THE COLD FRONT
FROM MEDFORD TO ENID TO FAIRVIEW BETWEEN 5 AND 6 PM.
This is Bryan Painter of The Oklahoman and today I’ll be blogging from the National Weather Service’s Norman Forecast Office. There is a chance for severe weather today so I’ll try to keep you up to date on what I’m hearing. Also since the severe weather may not occur for awhile, I’ll provide some other general safety procedures and weather information while they are watching for development.
Thanks and stay safe.
2 p.m. May 13, 2009
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
1149 PM CDT FRI MAY 8 2009
1149 PM CDT FRI MAY 8 2009
…SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY…
THIS SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY IS FOR HUGHES COUNTY.
A STRONG THUNDERSTORM WAS LOCATED OVER ATWOOD AT 1149 PM CDT…MOVING
EAST AT 25 MPH.
SMALL HAIL AND WINDS AROUND 50 MPH ARE POSSIBLE.
The OG&E System Watch is showing 456 customers affected by power outages at Ringling.