What to Do Once a Tornado Has Passed

what you should do once a tornado has passed, what to do after a tornado passes in OKCMost people are aware of the obvious risks from a tornados’ strong winds, which can send debris flying and destroy property. After a tornado hits, however, there are other risks from the wreckage that they leave behind. You could get seriously injured once re-entering your home left-over debris.

The first thing you should do is to make sure the storm is really over before emerging from your storm shelter. Check for the latest weather information related to the storm in your area on your weather radio.

Aiding the Injured

  • Check everyone with you for injuries and administer first aid for any minor injuries as needed.
  • If you have a seriously injured person in your party, do not attempt to move them unless they are in immediate danger. Call 911.
  • If someone has stopped breathing, administer CPR if you have been trained to do so.
  • Stop any bleeding by applying direct pressure, and have puncture wounds evaluated by emergency medical personnel.

Watch Out For Hazards

  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them to the utility company.
  • If your home is damaged, do not enter until emergency management officials say it is safe to go inside.
  • Watch for any animals that have been forced into your home by rising waters or flooding. Leave immediately if you smell fumes or gas, and notify emergency personnel.
  • If your home has not been damaged, keep children and pets inside, away from any damage or debris outside. If you have to take your pets outside, keep them on a leash.
  • If your home has no power, use flashlights and lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.
  • If you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
  • If you see frayed electrical wiring or sparks, or smell something burning, shut off your home's electrical system at the main circuit breaker.

Safety When Cleaning

  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves whenever you handle, walk around or are near any debris. Many of the injuries caused by tornados result from stepping on nails in and around damaged homes and buildings.
  • Clean up any dangerous spills immediately, including medicines, bleaches, chemicals, gasoline or other flammable liquids.

We hope that you never have to experience the devastation a tornado can have on a community. However; severe storms cannot be avoided – especially if you live in Tornado Alley. But, if you have a preparedness plan and are well informed about disasters, you will already have a leg up on any tornado!

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What Is Tornado Alley?

What is Tornado Alley? in Oklahoma and surrounding areaTornado Alley is a region of the United States that is regularly hit with tornados. Tornado Alley covers the Great Plains and is centered on eastern Kansas and Oklahoma and also included parts of the surrounding states, where tornados are most frequent. The city with the most recorded tornados is Oklahoma City, which also has the strongest winds ever recorded (over 316 mph), during a tornado on May 3, 1999. That tornado also holds the record for the most costly damage - over one billion dollars! 

If you want to know more about Tornado Alley, take a look at the facts below:

  • Tornado Alley is best described as the area where cold dry air, warm dry air and warm moist air clash, making it suitable of thunderstorm and tornado production.
  • Tornado Alley is term mostly used by the media to describe a region or area with a frequency of tornados. The National Weather Service and NOAA have never given an official definition to the term nor specified an actual area that is Tornado Alley.
  • The gulf coast area has its own Tornado Alley which is often referred to the Dixie Alley. Tornados in this area typically occur in late fall.
  • The term Tornado Alley was first used in 1952. The phrase was used as the title of study done on severe weather in parts of Oklahoma and Texas.
  • Building codes are often much stricter in areas designated as Tornado Alley in order to help prevent damage to property and loss of life.
  • Tornado Alley is the region that is suitable for the production of supercell thunderstorms. Which can typically produce EF-2/F2 or greater tornados.
  • Tornado Alley is considered to be located in the Southern Plains area of the United States. Tornados in this area typically occur in late spring.
  • The criteria to be in Tornado Alley can vary and is based on the observers representation of what criteria is needed to be met to be in Tornado Alley.

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Storm Shelter Supply List: What to Take to your Shelter

Image of tornado for storm shelter supply list page in OKPeople always say to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. That’s what having a storm shelter is all about. You don’t ever want to use it, but in case of an emergency you will be very happy you have it! 

Simply having a shelter on your property is fine for protecting your family from a storm, but what will you do if that storm lasts for an extended period of time?

Keeping you and your family safe from the dangers of this world can take different forms. Surviving a disaster is your first order of duty, but then you have to protect yourself from the aftermath. For that, you need to properly stock your tornado shelter with supplies in order to stay safe, secure and healthy for hours, days and possibly even weeks following a disaster.

It’s up to you to decide how prepared you want to be. Below, we take a look at what to take to your storm shelter for both the short and long terms.

Short-Term Storm Shelter Supply List

Food & Water – These are two of the most basic human needs and one of the first things you need to get for your storm shelter. The food needs to be non-perishable, so that you can store it for months or even years without fear of it going bad. You need to be careful and store everything properly so they won’t fall and injure anyone.

Clothes & Blankets - You will want to stay warm and that could mean keeping an extra set of clothes, towels and blankets in your shelter. This is especially important if your tornado shelter entrance is located outside of your home, since you may have to travel through bad weather to get to your shelter and you don’t want to spend all night locked up in a small room while you’re wet and cold.

Lighting - No one wants to be stuck in the dark! Make sure to bring flashlights and batteries to your storm shelter. Even if you have your shelter wired for regular lights you can’t count on the power staying on. Lamps are good for lighting the shelter while flashlights will prepare you for leaving if you have to. Be careful when storing batteries because they can corrode with time and begin to leak acid.

First Aid – This is another important essential. While you want to get out of danger as soon as possible, there’s a chance you may get injured on your way to the shelter. If that happens you don’t want to be stuck waiting for a storm to pass to get your bandages and disinfectant, so make sure your shelter is always equipped with a well-stocked first aid kit.

Your Families Unique Needs – It is super important that you have your shelter stocked according to the unique needs of your family. For example, if you have a baby in the family then you definitely need to store things like formula, diapers, etc. Also, if you have any unique health concerns then you need to stock up on anything that may be needed in an emergency.

Supply List for Long-Term Preparedness

If you pack just the essentials you will likely have everything you need for the average emergency. But what about events that are out of the ordinary? What if you have to bunker down in your shelter for longer than a day? What if supplies are scarce after you do come up? These scenarios are certainly uncommon but if you want total protection then you should consider prepping more than you think you’ll likely need.

For long term planning the main concern is having enough supplies. You want to have enough food and fresh water stored for an extended period. Just how much food you decide to take to your storm shelter depends on how prepared you want to be and how much storage room you have. If your shelter only has enough room for your family, then you probably won’t have space for a weeks’ worth of food and water.

Another important long term consideration is all of your important documents. If you live in an area where tornados are a real concern then you never know when everything may gone forever. By keeping copies of documents like passports, family records, wills and more in your shelter then you can save yourself the trouble of replacing them later if a storm destroys those documents in your home.

Gathering All the Supplies You Need

Woman taking supplies to tornado shelterUltimately, only you can decide how prepped you want to be in case of an emergency. Anything is better than nothing - so if budget is an issue, or if larger storms don’t concern you, then just doing the bare minimum is likely to work. 

It’s also important to regularly check your inventory against your storm shelter supplies checklist - don’t assume that you have everything you need. Some things will expire and you never know if a family member borrowed something and never replaced it. Taking time every few months to ensure all your prep is still in order will help you in the long run.

Hopefully you now have an idea of the basics of what to take to a storm shelter. Just having a fully prepped backpack can mean the difference between a night spent in safety and mortal danger. So carefully think about what you need to feel as safe as possible. 

Need a Storm Shelter?

The most important item on the tornado shelter checklist is an actual tornado shelter! If you don't have a shelter, check out our models and order a custom shelter online.

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The Do's and Don'ts Once Inside Your Storm Shelter

What You Should Do Once In Your Storm Shelter in OklahomaIf you live in an area that has frequent tornados (like Oklahoma), you will definitely want to get a storm shelter. Once you have your tornado shelter, you will need to know how to use the shelter as effectively as possible in order to be safe from storms. 

First things first. Make sure that your family knows exactly what to once a tornado hits. Every single member of your family needs to know where the shelter is, where to meet, and what to grab. Don't just assume that your kids will know what to do!

The key is to make a plan. Practice your family preparedness plan a few times with your family. Act like there is a tornado and have everyone follow the plan. This will not only teach your kids what to do, but it will also point out the obvious flaws with your plans that can be fixed later.

We have previously written a detailed article about what to keep in your storm shelter. As a recap, you should keep basic disaster supplies in your shelter. These things include: a weather radio, flash lights, water, food, blankets, and any other items that are unique to your family. 

You should also try to have some form of entertainment. Sometimes, storms can last a number of hours. Children in a small space with nothing to do can become frustrated and fussy. Simple things like cards, video games, board games, coloring books, or a DVD player will provide some entertainment.

Once everyone is safe in the storm shelter, make sure the door is securely fastened and get ready to hunker down! If you have an outdoor concrete shelter, make sure to allow plenty of time to get to the shelter before the tornado arrives. If you wait until the storm is upon you, you will be exposed to wind, hail, rain, lightning and maybe even flying debris as you try to get to your shelter. 

Once the tornado is there, be prepared. It will be extremely noisy (some say it sounds like a freight train). The pressure may surprise you and your children. Your ears will definitely pop several times within seconds. Once the tornado passes there will be a seemingly dead calm. Once you are sure the storm has passed, it is okay to emerge from the shelter. After the tornado is over, you might seem overwhelmed with the next steps to take, especially if your home is damaged. Don’t worry! Check out our detailed article series, How to Recover from Disaster.

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What Causes a Tornado to Start

With wind speeds that can reach more than 300 mph, tornados are one of the most destructive natural disasters on the planet. Although scientists don't entirely understand how they are formed, they do have a good idea about the conditions that cause tornados to develop in the first place. 

Tornados have touched down on all continents except Antarctica, but certain locations on Earth are more likely to experience tornados than others. Most tornados occur in Tornado Alley— the tornado-prone region of the United States, that spans from Texas to Kansas as well as the states in the Great Plains region.

This area often has the three things necessary for tornados to form:

  • A lot of warm, moist air close to the ground.
  • Atmospheric instability, a condition that promotes the vertical movement of air.
  • Clashing air fronts that propel moist air upward.

How Do Tornados Form in OklahomaIn areas where tornados can occur, warm, moist, low-elevation wind collides with cool, dry, higher-elevation wind. This unstable interaction causes the warm air front to quickly rise and cool air front to fall, which leads to the formation of a supercell, a type of thunderstorm with a long-lived, swirling updraft of air.

However, not all supercells result in tornados.

Scientists believe that if the two opposing winds move at different speeds, the air in between them will rotate on a horizontal axis. If one end of the horizontal air column gets caught in the supercell's updraft, it will tilt vertically, forming a funnel cloud.

The continuous upward energy of the supercell elongates the funnel cloud, and causes its spin to tighten and speed up (similar to the way ice skaters spin faster when their arms are pulled close to their bodies).

Rain and hail from the thunderstorm push down on the tail of the funnel. When the bottom of the funnel cloud finally touches the ground, it becomes a tornado.
Don’t wait any longer and keep your family safe by ordering a storm shelter today!

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What to Look for When a Tornado is Approaching

Survive a Tornado tips from Ground Zero Shelters in OKC and TulsaWe recently learned how tornados are formed, but all that knowledge is useless unless you know what to look for. So let’s discuss how to spot a tornado. 

Sign #1 - Severe thunderstorm tornados are usually accompanied by heavy rain, hail and lightning.

Sign #2 - Rotating wall clouds or funnel clouds originate from the lowering down of the meso-cyclone, almost a certain sign that a tornado is developing or approaching.

Sign #3 - Green skies. In the middle of a thunderstorm, if you see that the dark sky is turning green, it could be a sign of tornado formation. Green-tinted storm clouds are the result of dense moisture in the atmosphere reflecting green light.

Sign #4 - A tornado watch is issued. This happens when conditions are just right for a tornado to form. Learn what to do when a tornado watch is issued

Sign #5 - Flying debris in the air. A tornado may pick up debris on its way to your neighborhood.

Sign #6 – There is a calm period after heavy rain and / or hail. 

There are numerous signs, and you may not see all of them, but the best bet is that you will encounter a few of them before coming in contact with a tornado. There are also several safety rules that you should follow. Below are the do’s, don’ts and the never’s of tornado safety survival.

The Do’s of Tornado Safety Survival:

  • Go to the basement or a customized storm shelter. If you don’t have any of these, you can seek shelter in a small interior ground floor room like a bathroom, closet or hallway.
  • Stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.
  • If possible, find shelter in another building if you are in a gymnasium, church or auditorium. If you are in one of these buildings and cannot leave, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk.
  • Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris.

The Don'ts of Tornado Safety Survival:

  • Take shelter under a bridge or overpass
  • Remain in a vehicle or mobile home
  • Attempt to “stabilize pressure” by opening windows
  • Dive for the southwest corner of your basement

The Never’s of Tornado Safety Survival:

  • Attempt to outrun a tornado in a vehicle
  • Continue to walk or drive, assuming the tornado won’t strike near you
  • Take open shelter close to a hill or lake because “tornados don't hit lakes”
  • Attempt to photograph an oncoming tornado
  • Chase tornados

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