One of the most destructive forces in nature may be coming
to your area this spring! Are you disaster prepared?
* All photos courtesy of "Google Images". Special thanks to
"Wikipedia.com" and ready.gov/tornados.
to your area this spring! Are you disaster prepared?
* All photos courtesy of "Google Images". Special thanks to
"Wikipedia.com" and ready.gov/tornados.
by Felicity Blaze Noodleman
With winter, transitioning now into early spring the official start of “Tornado Season” for the mid western US is now on the horizon. Tornado's actually vary depending on the region of the country, with the Deep South and down toward Florida getting their season in late winter/early spring, while the upper Midwest has their tornado season during the spring and summer. Tornadoes are most common in general from the months of April through June, which corresponds to tornado season in much of tornado alley through the Ohio River Valley.
I have never seen a destructive force in nature which can equal a Tornado “touchdown”. Even the destructive force of a Hurricane pales in comparison. This is probably because Hurricanes announce themselves in advance of their arrival. Tornado's do not. It could be a nice beautiful spring day and then suddenly – there it is – a full scale roaring, howling Tornado! These giant vacuums are capable of picking up people, cars, boats, air craft, trees, even houses and moving them for some distances before dropping them back down to the ground! The debris left from a Tornado presents many dangers as well so be extra careful when excavating for people and lost articles.
This is an aerial view of tornado damage as residents in Tuscaloosa, Ala., continue the process of cleaning up Saturday, April 30, 2011. Hundreds of people were killed across the South when a swarm of tornadoes hit on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Eye witness to a tornado – (Any where USA) View of the distruction left of a full scale Tornado. Eye witness states “I now have a healthy respect for the power tornados possess. There is literally no safe place above ground in the path of a tornado. I saw "safe" places crushed or ripped away. I have a storm shelter in my future for my family. This is the third tornado to hit Pleasant Grove in the last 30 years. That is one about every 10 years. The F5 in 1998 passed within a quarter mile of here. This one actually crossed the property and was within 200 feet of my house. A storm shelter is good insurance”. (www.foprangeinc.com Photo: Unknown)
From Michigan to Texas in the swath of the country known as “Tornado Alley” this somewhat predictable weather phenomenon can occur with it’s devastating and deadly force with hardly a moment’s notice so be prepared! This article is being written to help assist those who may be in harm’s way in the event they should be caught in the path of these “Twisters”. So what is a Tornado? Wikipedia explains:
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as twisters or cyclones, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology, in a wider sense, to name any closed low pressure circulation. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, but they are typically in the form of a visible condensation funnel, whose narrow end touches the earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris and dust. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (177 km/h), are about 250 feet (76 m) across, and travel a few miles (several kilometers) before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (483 km/h), stretch more than two miles (3.2 km) across, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles (more than 100 km).
Various types of tornadoes include the landspout, multiple vortex tornado, and waterspout. Waterspouts are characterized by a spiraling funnel-shaped wind current, connecting to a large cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud. They are generally classified as non-supercellular tornadoes that develop over bodies of water, but there is disagreement over whether to classify them as true tornadoes. These spiraling columns of air frequently develop in tropical areas close to the equator, and are less common at high latitudes. Other tornado-like phenomena that exist in nature include the gustnado, dust devil, fire whirls, and steam devil.
As this Diagram of a Tornado formation illustrates warmer air rising from the ground
mixes with much colder air in the stratosphere and obtain their destructive force.
Believe it or not preparations can be made in anticipation of a Tornado which can minimize the destructive force from this weather phenomenon and will save lives while minimizing property damage. It is the lack of preparation and unexpected suddenness of Tornado's which renders the most damage from these violent weather cells.
US Government Agencies to help in dealing with natural disasters.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
Before a Tornado
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
- Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
- Look for the following danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
- Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
- If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
During a Tornado
If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately! Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.
If you are in:
A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)
· Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
· In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
· Put on sturdy shoes.
· Do not open windows.
A trailer or mobile home
· Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter
· Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
· If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
· Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
· If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands
· Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
· Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
· Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
After a TornadoInjury may result from the direct impact of a tornado or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. A study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. Nearly a third of the injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or an explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using extreme care to avoid further hazards.
InjuriesCheck for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so. Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound. Have any puncture wound evaluated by a physician. If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.
General Safety PrecautionsHere are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:
- Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
- Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
- Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
- Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
- Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
- Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper - or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO) - an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it - from these sources can build up in your home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
- Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
- Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
- Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.
Inspecting the Damage
- After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
- In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
- If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
- If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
- If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or State Fire Marshal's office and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.
Safety During Clean Up
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves.
- Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
- Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.
FEMA PublicationsIf you require more information about any of these topics, the following resources may be helpful.
- Tornado Protection - Selecting Refuge Areas in Buildings. FEMA 431. Intended primarily to help building administrators, architects and engineers select the best available refuge areas in existing schools.
- How to Guides to Protect Your Property or Business from High Winds.
Related WebsitesFind additional information on how to plan and prepare for a tornado and learn about available resources by visiting the following websites:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
- NOAA Watch
- American Red Cross
Listen to Local OfficialsLearn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
Build a Safe RoomExtreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built "to code" but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room or a wind shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home.
- Your basement
- Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
- An interior room on the first floor.
To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
- The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
- The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
- The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
- Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.
- Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House. FEMA L-233. Brochure providing details about obtaining information about how to build a wind-safe room to withstand tornado, hurricane and other high winds.
- Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room Inside Your House. FEMA L-320. Manual with detailed information about how to build a wind-safe room to withstand tornado, hurricane and other high winds.
Preparations for a Tornado should include a safe place to shelter you and your family which is well stocked with food, water and medical supplies. Preparations should include blankets or sleeping bags, flash lights, candles and maybe the full range of camping supplies such as a small cooking stove, tent, and even a portable generator. The smallest everyday convinces which we take for granted such as toilet paper will make a big difference in life after the storm! Don’t forget about your pets – include their needs as well. The best places to wait out a Tornado are under ground – a basement or cellar of some sort. Plan for the worst - it may be several days before you are able to secure permanent living quarters again after a Tornado.
Another good tip for minimizing property damage from a Tornado is to leave some windows in your home open because a Tornado is an extreme low pressure system. The air pressure in your home will cause the house to explode outwards. By leaving the windows open it will equalize the air pressure inside the house with the outside air pressure. This simple procedure could make the difference between saving or loosing your home during a Tornado!
Hardly anything is able to with stand a direct hit from a Tornado. At ground zero the best thing to do is protect yourself and not to become a casualty of the storm. This is why it is so important to have a safe place to go. Make your plans now! I honestly think most people believe it could never happen to them. Remember; “it’s always better to be safe than sorry” and “hind sight is better than foresight”.
Stock photo of a Tornado (Washington Post)
I hope you, your family and neighborhood will be safe from natural disasters this spring. The big hazard here in California is rain and mud slides, but no matter where you reside is the US it's a good idea to be "disaster prepared" year round. In two simple words; "BE READY" prepare your self for any natural disaster! I'm Felicity for the Noodleman Group.
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