We’re well into the tornado season, that time of year when superstorms, often producing tornadoes, strike. Even with the most advanced forecast and warning systems, cities and communities experience death and destruction when these monsters form.
There are those who believe that some day in may be possible for man to have more control over weather. But for now, it’s best to respect it and be aware of its potential. Learn how to survive it.
The damage resulting from Sunday’s tornado in southwest Missouri and the surrounding area resembles a war zone, a common description when an area sustains such a hit from a powerful storm. The death toll continues to rise as rescue and other emergency personnel find victims under the debris left by the tornado. Local officials estimate as much as 40 percent of the city of 50,000 had damage.
It wasn’t that there was no warning. The Joplin city manager said storm sirens sounded at least 20 minutes before the twister touched down on the west side, then tore a six-mile-long, half-mile-wide slice through the center of town. Among the buildings in its direct path: a hospital.
Some witnesses have said the Joplin tornado was “wrapped in rain” and hard to see. This is not unusual. It’s also not unusual that a tornado can be almost transparent until it picks up debris.
Tornadoes can have winds of up to 300 mph and can destroy everything in their path for 50 miles or so. They strike quickly, sometimes with little warning. So how can you prepare to survive one?
Have a plan, don’t panic.
If the sky is dark, often greenish; if there is large hail; if you see a large, dark, low-lying cloudy; and if you hear a loud roar (often described as similar to a freight train), you are witnessing conditions that may accompany a tornado.
Though a house of any kind rarely can withstand a direct hit from a severe tornado, good construction can help if your home is on the edge of the tornado’s path. A home can get a little extra protection with impact-resistant window; at least three hinges on doors and a deadbolt with a bolt at last an inch long.
Homebuilders may recommend installing permanent wood or metal stiffeners on garage doors. Some temporary supports are available that you can attach and remove easily when weather threatens. It isn’t my preference, but anything might be beneficial.
Weather officials say that if weather conditions are right for a tornado in your area, take precations.
If a tornado warning is issued, get everyone to shelter. If you have a basement, move everyone there. Otherwise, find a closet, a small room or a hallway away from windows. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
Lean a mattress against the wall of the room you’re in, don’t open windows (you want the wind and rain to stay outside). If you can, turn off your utilities.
If you live in a mobile home, find shelter elsewhere.
Some other tips:
* If you are in a vehicle and a tornado is approaching, get out and try to find shelter inside a sturdy building. If there is nothing nearby, a ditch can provide shelter. Obviously, don’t lie down in water, however.
* Don’t make the mistake of taking shelter under a bridge or overpass. These structures may be destroyed. They also offer very little protection from debris.
If a tornado watch is issued rather than a warning, you should have time to move anything in your yard that may become flying debris inside your house or garage. But if a thunderstorm is in progress, with lightning especially, don’t go out in it.
Have emergency supplies at the ready (flashlights, cell phones, snacks, clean water, blankets … those things that can be used immediately).
Listen to weather reports and be prepared to act.
For more stormy weather safety information, go to http://knowit.newsok.com/severe-weather-oklahoma.