As destructive as mankind is, we still pale to the forces of Nature. There are arguments and examples of which natural disaster is worse, which is as stupid as claiming climate change is a hoax. Any force which can annihilate an entire town in a matter of moments is something to be very afraid of. Whether it be swept away by a tsunami, swallowed whole by an earthquake or pelted into submission by hurricane winds and rain, it all amounts to probable death for anyone caught off guard and uneducated as to what to do when facing Nature in her destructive mood.
The first thing one must accept is there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop the forces of nature. You can not stick a plug in a volcano, or redirect a tsunami. So what to do? Accept a gracious death? Hell no! Fight back.
In this segment we will exam steps to take in the event a tornado, nature’s funnel of death and destruction, is roaring towards you. You can’t stop the destruction, but you can learn to deflect, avoid and/or protect yourself from the brunt of the rage.
It used to be a common joke how the weatherman can be wrong half the time and still be considered a good weather forecaster. Well, times have changed and with the vast array of sophisticated equipment, satellites, computer simulations and increased understanding of weather patterns, the National Weather Service deserves an A+ for their forecasting. I state this in order to stress the importance of heeding any warnings issued by the NWS.
Depending on the expected severity of a storm, the National Weather Service may issue one or more types of the following advisories:
Severe thunderstorm watch: Conditions are conducive to the development of severe thunderstorms in and around the watch area. These storms produce hail of ¾ inch in diameter and/or wind gusts of at least 58 mph.
Severe thunderstorm warning: Issued when a severe thunderstorm has been observed by spotters or indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. These warnings usually last for a period of 30 to 60 minutes.
Tornado watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area. People in the affected areas are encouraged to be vigilant in preparation for severe weather.
Tornado warning: Spotters have sighted a tornado or one has been indicated on radar, and is occurring or imminent in the warning area. When a tornado warning has been issued, people in the affected area are strongly encouraged to take cover immediately.
Many cities are now equipped with tornado sirens which will be enacted should the threat be imminent.
The threat is real and unavoidable, you’re right in the path of a raging tornado. What do you do? That depends to a great extent of where you are.
If You’re in a Building
- Seek shelter in the lowest level of your home, such as a basement or storm cellar. If you don’t have a basement, go to an inner hallway, a smaller inner room like a bathroom or a closet. The additional framing helps strengthen the structure at these locations.
- Keep away from all windows and glass doorways for obvious reasons. Flying shards of broken glass are knives whirling around and very deadly.
- If you’re in a building such as a church, hospital, school or office building, go to the innermost part of the building on the lowest floor. Do not use elevators because the power may fail, leaving you trapped.
- If in a bedroom, pull the mattress off the bed and cushion yourself with it, but don’t entirely cover yourself with it, as you want to be visible to rescuers should it come to that. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass.
- Keep pets on a leash or in a crate or carrier.
- Don’t get in a hurry to sight see. Stay inside until you’re certain the storm has passed, as multiple tornadoes can emerge from the same storm.
- Do not leave a building to attempt to “escape” a tornado. You can not outrun a tornado and you may make your situation worse by being caught in the open.
- Go to the center of the room vs a corner. Corners will attract debris and you don’t want to be the target.
- Hide under a sturdy piece of furniture, desk, table, etc
If You’re Caught Outside
- If you think you can, try to get inside a building as quickly as possible and find a small, protected space away from windows. This will be a split second decision you’ll have to make at the time. To run … or not run. How far is the building … how close is the tornado?
- If you cannot find a place to go inside, crouch for protection next to a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a jacket, if you have one. Keep face down and eyes closed.
- Be aware of your surrounding and stay alert for potential flooding.
- If You’re Caught in a CarIf you can safely drive away from the tornado, do so, but that comes with a few cautions. You can’t normally outrun a tornado, and they can quickly change directions, but if you can drive perpendicular the opposite direction the tornado is traveling … do it.
- If there is a sturdy structure available, stop the car and go inside.
- If no building is available, and avoiding the tornado is impossible, pull over, stop the car, leaving it running so the air bags work, and crouch down in the floorboard, below the windows. Roll down side windows.
- If there are no buildings available, but you have time to stop the car and exit, do so immediately. Lay in a ditch or low lying area, as far away from the car as possible, lay flat on your stomach and cover the back of your head and neck with your arms. Why get away from the car? It’s an established safety rule that says to get out of the car and into a ditch. But if you do that, you should get far enough away from the car so the tornado’s winds doesn’t flip the car tumbling onto you. Being below the prevailing ground level may shield you from some of the tornado wind and flying debris, but there is still danger from those.
- Hollywood will get you killed. Do NOT get out of a vehicle and climb up under the embankment of a bridge or overpass. This often increases your risk as you’re sitting in the middle of a wind tunnel where debris will whip through quite possibly destroying everything in its path.
If You’re Caught in a Mobile Home
Mobile homes constitute a large portion of personal residences in the United States, but unfortunately they are the most dangerous place to be caught in when a tornado strikes. If you live in a mobile home it is imperative you have an escape plan, practiced with your children, specifically for tornadoes.
- Do not remain in a mobile home during a tornado. Even mobile homes equipped with tie-down systems cannot withstand the force of a tornado’s winds. Know if there is a community shelter located within the mobile home park and how to get to it.Heed all local watches and warnings, and leave your mobile home to seek shelter as quickly as possible before a tornado strikes, preferably in a nearby building with a basement.
Entire Mobile Park Destroyed
- If no shelter is immediately available, run outside away from trees and cars. Find low ground and lie down flat, with hands clasped behind your head to protect the back of the head. This is safer than staying inside of a mobile home, although seeking a permanent building for shelter is preferred. find the lowest-lying area near you and lie down in it, covering your head with your hands.
Owning vs Renting – Tips
If you own your property, renters won’t have the options, when installing yard articles, secure them ahead of time. Install swing-set legs in concrete for instance. Flying debris is deadly and there won’t be time if a tornado is approaching to take any action.
Install an underground shelter next to the mobile home. Concrete septic tanks are today’s fashionable way to have an underground safe place. They’re not as expensive as other options and can be installed in one day.
Battling Nature’s wrath is fruitless, therefore learning how to compromise and deflect the effects is the best choice. Know the warning signs, have an escape plan in place and practiced is the best option to survive the devastation a tornado can create.