Every year from early spring to mid-summer tornados become a reality in many states. Tornados can occur anywhere and at any time if the conditions are right. But during tornado season, the chances of these storms occurring in Tornado Alley and the Great Plains are the greatest.
On average, 60 people will lose their lives each year. So what can you do to make sure you and your family aren't listed among the casualties the next time a tornado touches down in your neighborhood?
Rule #1 – Get Prepared
You need to invest time and money into a disaster supplies kit and create a family disaster plan.
Rule #2 – Treat All Warnings Seriously
What is a tornado watch, and how is it different from a warning?
A tornado watch defines an area where tornados and other kinds of severe weather are possible in the next few hours. It does not mean tornados will form - just that you need to be alert and prepared to find safe shelter if they do. Find out what to do when a tornado watch is issued.
A tornado warning, issued by the local National Weather Service office, means that a tornado has been spotted, or that Doppler radar indicates a thunderstorm acting in a way which can spawn a tornado. Find out what to do when a tornado warning is issued.
Rule #3 – Buy a Weather Radio
Make sure your weather radio has fresh batteries, and that it is on standby whenever thunderstorms are likely. A good weather radio will activate itself whenever a tornado watch or warning is issued, (and will do the same for any other weather threat or civil emergency). If there are tornados forming in your area, your best defense is having the time to get to safe shelter, and a weather radio will give you this.
Rule #4 – Find Shelter
Make sure you know where safe shelter is, and make sure you know how to get there in a hurry. Finding shelter will be made easier if you are prepared. Most workplaces and schools in a tornado-prone area will have an action plan. If you are at home you should move to a safe location, either one you have prepared in your home, or at a public shelter.
The safety of a home storm shelter will depend on the construction of your house, and whether you have modified it to provide a safe room.
If you are in your vehicle when a tornado strikes you have two choices. If traffic and roads allow, you can drive away from it - if possible take a few moments to assess the risks.
If you can see the tornado, line it up with a fixed point such as a building or a tree. If it moves to the left or right the tornado is not heading toward you; but to be on the safe side, drive away in the opposite direction.
If it doesn't appear to move, but does appear to be growing larger, it is probably coming your way. If you can't drive away from it or find a secure shelter, abandon your car, and lie flat on the lowest ground you can find - a roadside ditch would be a good option. Cars can be death traps, and sheltering under bridges or overpasses is very risky.
So as you can see, it is best to have a plan, and keep your weather radio handy and charged up. If you follow these guidelines, you should stay safe during tornado season.