Tornadoes can occur without warning. That’s why it’s important to be alert to changing weather, and use both broadcast information and your own senses and experience to know when to take cover.
A Tornado Watch simply means that conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. In this case, you should be alert to changes in the weather and take precautions to protect yourself and your property.
During a Tornado Watch:
– Move cars inside a garage or carport.
– Keep your car keys and house keys with you.
– Move lawn furniture and yard equipment such as lawnmowers inside if time permits.
– Account for family members at home.
– Have your emergency kit ready.
– Keep your radio or TV tuned into the weather reports.
Tornado Warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted. Tornadoes can be deadly and devastating storms, with winds up to 260 miles per hour. If a Tornado Warning is issued for your area, seek shelter immediately!
There is little time for closing windows or hunting for flashlights. It’s a good idea to know where things are and to have an emergency storm kit already prepared.
Learn the warning signals used in your community. If a siren sounds, that means stay inside and take cover.
Consider setting up a neighborhood information program through a club, church group, or community group.
Hold briefings on safety procedures as tornado season approaches. Set up a system to make sure senior citizens and shut-ins are alerted if there is a tornado warning.
Put together an emergency storm kit including a transistor radio, flashlight, batteries and simple first-aid items in a waterproof container.
Make a complete inventory of your possessions for insurance purposes.
Conduct drills with your family in the home; make sure each member knows the correct procedures if they are at work or school when a tornado hits.
During the Tornado:
The safest place to be during a tornado is underground, preferably under something sturdy like a workbench.
If there’s no basement or cellar in your home, a small room in the middle of the house — like a bathroom or a closet — is best. The more walls between you and the outside, the better.
Mobile Home Dwellers/Owners:
Residents in mobile homes, even those with tiedowns, should seek safe shelter elsewhere at the first sign of severe weather.
Go to a prearranged shelter or talk to a friend or relative ahead of time to see if you can go to their house when the weather turns bad.
If you live in a mobile home park, talk to management about the availability of a nearby shelter.
As a last resort, go outside and lie flat on the ground with your hands over your head and neck. Be alert for flash floods that often accompany such storms.
If you are driving during a tornado:
Tornadoes can toss cars and large trucks around like toys. Never try to outrun a tornado.
If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning issued on the radio or by siren, get out of your vehicle and seek a safe structure or lie down in a low area with your hands covering the back of your head and neck; keep alert for flash floods.
Learn emergency shelter plans in office buildings and schools you and your family frequent. If a specific shelter area does not exist, move into interior hallways or small rooms on the building’s lowest level. Avoid areas with glass and wide, freespan roofs.
If you can’t get into a basement or designated shelter, move to the center of the lowest level of the building, away from windows, and lie flat.
If you are in a store or shopping mall:
Go to a designated shelter area or to the center of the building on a low level. Stay away from large, open rooms and windows. Never seek shelter in cars in the parking lot.
Thunderstorms are a common occurrence during changing seasons, primarily from winter to spring and again from fall to winter. All thunderstorms are dangerous. Strong winds, hail and tornadoes are also hazards associated with some thunderstorms.
The National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe, if it produces hail at least 3/4 inch in diameter, wind greater than 58 mph, or tornadoes.
(U.S. Department of Commerce)
LIFE CYCLE OF A THUNDERSTORM:
– Towering cumulus cloud indicates rising air
– Usually little if any rain
– Occasional lightning
MATURE STAGE OF A STORM:
– Most likely time for hail, heavy rain, frequent lightning, strong winds
– Possible tornadoes
– Storm occasionally has a black or green appearance
– Lasts an average of 10 to 20 minutes but may last much longer in some storms
DISSIPATING STAGE OF A STORM:
Rainfall decreases in intensity
Some thunderstorms produce a burst of strong winds
Lightning remains a danger
Every thunderstorm needs moisture to form clouds and rain. Unstable air with relatively warm air that can rise rapidly is needed for the development of thunderstorms. Lift is also needed from fronts, sea breezes, and mountains to help form thunderstorms.
A cloud-to-ground lightning strike begins as an invisible channel of electricity-charged air moving from the cloud toward the ground. When one channel nears an object on the ground, a powerful surge of electricity from the ground moves upward to the cloud and produces the visible lightning strike.
– Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas.
– The average flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months.
– Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between the cloud and ground.
– Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 but could be reduced by following safety rules:
– If inside: Once inside avoid doors, windows, and metal objects. Avoid using electrical appliances. Use the telephone only in an emergency.
– If driving: Stay in your automobile. An enclosed automobile offers reasonably good protection from lightning.
– If Outdoors: stay away from isolated trees. If your hair stands on end or your skin tingles, lightning may be about to strike. CROUCH down quickly and make a low target. DO NOT LIE DOWN FLAT.
Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors.
(boating, swimming, golfing, bike riding, standing under a tree, riding a lawnmower, talking on the telephone, loading a truck, playing soccer, fishing in a boat, mountain climbing)
Most lightning casualties occur in the summer months and during the afternoon and early evening.
The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun! The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in thunder.
LIGHTNING MYTHS AND FACTS:
MYTH: If it is not raining, then there is no danger from lightning
FACT: Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
MYTH: The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being struck by lightning.
FACT: Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
MYTH: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.
FACT: Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
MYTH: “Heat-lightning” occurs after very hot summer days and poses no threat.
FACT: What is referred to as “heat-lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction!
– A small area of rapidly descending air beneath the thunderstorm
– Can cause damaging winds in excess of 100 mph
– The strong winds usually approach from one direction and may be known as “straight-line” winds.
In extreme cases, straight-line winds can reach speeds equal to a strong tornado, causing significant damage to some buildings
Strong winds may or may not be accompanied by rain
The strong rising currents of air within a storm, called updrafts, carry water droplets to a height where freezing occurs.
Ice particles grow in size, finally becoming too heavy to be supported by the updraft and fall to the ground.
Large hailstones fall at speeds faster than 100 mph.
(U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service)
– A funnel cloud is defined as a violently rotating column of air that is not in contact with the ground.
– A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground.
WHAT CAUSES TORNADOES?
Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes.
Tornadoes in the winter and early spring are often associated with strong, frontal systems that form in the Central States and move east. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur with this type of weather pattern. Several states may be affected by numerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
During the spring in the Central Plains, thunderstorms frequently develop along a “dryline,” which separates very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Tornado producing thunderstorms may form, as the dryline moves east during the afternoon hours.
Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains, in the Texas panhandle, and in the southern High Plains, thunderstorms frequently form as air near the ground flows “upslope” toward higher terrain. If other favorable conditions exist, these thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.
Tornadoes occasionally accompany tropical storms and hurricanes that move over land. Tornadoes are most common to the right and ahead of the path of the storm center as it comes on-shore.
HOW DO TORNADOES FORM?
Before thunderstorms develop, a change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed with increasing height creates an invisible, horizontal spinning effect in the lower atmosphere.
– Rising air within the thunderstorm updraft tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical.
– An area of rotation, 2-6 miles wide, now extends through much of the storm. Most strong and violent tornadoes form within this area of strong rotation.
FREQUENCY OF TORNADOES:
In the southern states, peak tornado occurrences is in March through May, while peak months in the northern states are during the summer.
Note, in some states, a secondary tornado maximum occurs in the fall, such is the case with Missouri.
– Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m. but have been known to occur at all hours of the day and night.
– The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
– The average forward speed is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph.
– The total number of tornadoes is probably higher than indicated in the western states. Sparse population reduces the number reported.
– Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially to the ground. Look for signs of debris below the visible funnel.
– Some tornadoes are clearly visible while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds.
DID YOU KNOW?
On average, the United States gets 100,000 thunderstorms each year. Approximately 1,000 tornadoes develop from these storms.
Tornadoes are the most violent winds on earth. These twisters can produce wind speeds as high as 300 miles per hour, travel longer than 100 miles and reach up to 20,000 feet above ground.
Each year about 50-70 people are killed because of tornadoes. The worst series of tornadoes occurred on March 18, 1925, when eight tornadoes in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama caused 689 deaths.
ESTIMATING WIND SPEEDS:
Estimated MPH (Miles Per Hour) Observation
10: Leaves and Twigs Move
15: Small Branches Move
20: Small Trees Sway
25: Large Branches Sway
35: Twigs Break Off Trees
40: Whole Trees in Motion
50: Branches Break Off Trees
60: Branches Break Off Trees
70: Whole Trees Go Down
80: Hurricane Force Extreme Damages
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