Tornado Warning Signs You Need to Know

7 Tornado Myths Debunked

Tornado MythsWhat do you think of when tornados come to mind? Images of massive funnel clouds tearing over the Great Plains and destroying small towns and mobile homes? Well, the news is tornados vary greatly in size and strength and can happen anywhere, at any time of the year! 

Although freak accidents do happen ― and the most violent tornados can level a house ― most tornados are much weaker than the giant EF5s that most people imagine. There are tons of tornado myths out there, so it can be hard to know what advice to follow. Below we are debunking seven of the most common tornado myths out there.

  1. Taking shelter under an overpass will save you.
    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. You should never seek shelter under an overpass!Even if the overpass or bridge seems structurally sound, a wind tunnel can form as a tornado passes, pushing and pulling anything beneath the overpass directly into the path of the storm. Flying debris is a common cause of death or injury to those using this method of shelter.
     
  2. The size of a tornado is indicative of its destructive strength.
    The idea that size matters is absolutely false with a tornado. While the area a tornado covers may give it a larger appearance of strength, any size tornado can be deadly. In many cases, what are referred to as ‘rope’ tornados (smaller, narrower funneled storms) have often left the most destruction.
     
  3. Tornados might skip certain houses and buildings.
    The truth is that a house or building might be “missed” by the path of destruction, or may have withstood the storm to a larger degree in contrast to neighbors, thereby seeming to have been “saved”. Tornados can lift and retract and drop back to a path elsewhere. This behavior is unpredictable, and while in essence seems to avoid one building and destroy the next is not necessarily evidence of divine intervention.
     
  4. Tornados only pose a danger when they touch down.
    Onlookers may feel safe from a distance, often assuming that the actual funnel of a tornado is itself the tornado. In reality, the circular winds racing as much as 60 mph surrounding the funnel and extending well beyond its perceived breadth contain the most destructive power. Also, debris trapped and tossed along with the tornado pose greater risks of injury or death and can land great distances from the ‘center’ of the tornado.
     
  5. Certain terrain features can end or divert the path of a tornado.
    Many people have thought that bodies of water can create obstacles for tornados. In fact, some of the most violent tornados have actually formed on lakes and rivers. Again, a tornado can move over, across, and through anything and everything! 
     
  6. You will always see a funnel cloud.
    Don't assume that as long as there are no visible funnel clouds that you are safe. They can be hidden in heavy rains during the day or by the dark of night.
     
  7. The southwest corner of your house is the safest place to take cover.
    This myth stems from a meteorological theory published in 1887. It advised people that they should never take shelter in the NE corner of a room. The theory was published in several newspapers and became a popular belief. However, debris can be blown to any corner of a house!

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How Tornadoes are Formed

The Science of TornadosUnderstanding tornados is not just for the storm-chasers that bring us incredible footage from the front lines of deadly twisters. We are all affected by tornados at some time or another, and knowing more about the science of tornados can help all of us - even if it is only to empathize with those tragically affected by the destruction these unpredictable storms leave behind.

How Tornados Are Formed

In simple terms, tornados are formed during severe weather cycles that combine thunderstorms, colliding air masses (or fronts), a combination of cold and warm air, and high and low pressure changes.

When two or more moving air masses (cold or warm fronts) collide, strong weather will develop. Rain and hail are commonplace in a thunderstorm, but when the pressure and temperature changes are significant, high winds are concentrated and accelerated, and often result in a tornado.

As the colliding fronts intensify, specific regions of thunderstorms will develop a mesocyclone high up in the atmosphere. This massive rotation can be anywhere from a couple miles wide, to as much as 10 miles in diameter. This giant system is the tornado.

Mesocyclones

One interesting theory with mesocyclones is that the rapid changes in wind speed, and wind shear from rising warm air drawn up in to the mesocyclone system, cause horizontal tube-like vortexes to form within a severe thunderstorm. As the warm updraft continues, the tube-like vortex gradually turns vertical. As it becomes upright, the separation between the rising warm air and surrounding cold air concentrates, resulting in faster, more destructive wind speeds. This is also why we will often see intense hail storms surrounding a tornado. The cold air drops quickly, and the moisture condenses in to an ice storm -  which becomes a tell-tale sign that a tornado is imminent.

Try Experimenting  

Experimentation with miniature tornado models can help us to understand further what is happening when these unpredictable storms strike.Making a miniature tornado combines simple supplies from your hardware store and uses them to simulate and create a beautiful vortex that you can modify and manipulate as long as you keep your dry ice stocked!

A basic vent-fan acts as the mesocyclone, creating the rotation needed to make the miniature tornado. Then a pie tin or small pan at the base of the chamber holds hot water (replenished often), which represents warm surface temperatures. When dry ice is placed in the tin, or the hot water replenished over the dry ice, we can clearly see the varying effects of the rising warm air combined with the rotation of the vortex.

By manipulating the speed of the fan, the amount of dry ice, the temperature of the water, and the amount of air allowed in to the chamber, we can observe changes in the intensity, structure, and stability of our simulated tornado. Perhaps with these small changes and observations we can help our children understand more the elements that affect tornados, and the deadly weather we have seen recently.

Make a Disaster Relief Plan

Your family may not be together when a tornado strikes so it is very important to plan in advance:

  • How you will get to a safe place?
  • How you will contact one another?
  • How you will get back together?
  • What will you will do in different scenarios?

For an easy plan of action you can download communication plans for both parents and kids on FEMA’s website.

Our disaster relief recommendations:

We also recommend inquiring about emergency plans at places where your family spends time like work, daycare, school, church, sports events and commuting. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to community leaders, your colleagues, neighbors and members of faith or civic organizations about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. 

You will be better prepared to safely reunite your family and loved ones during a tornado if you think ahead and communicate with others in advance!

What Is Tornado Alley?

What is Tornado Alley?Tornado 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 pagePeople 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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Documents You Need for Your Grab-And-Go Binder

Sometimes in emergency situations, people do not think how they normally would. We never know how we are going to react Why You Should Have A Grab-And-Go Binderin an emergency until it actually happens. In order to prepare for any situation, preparing a grab-and-go binder should be an important part of your family emergency plan. This binder should contain your family’s most important information and documents. 

With that being said, it’s time to get organized! We suggest adding the following to your grab-and-go binder:

Financial Documents

  • Copies of the front / back of credit cards.
  • Copies of house and car titles.
  • Copy of your will or living trust.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all banks.
  • Other important documents related to employment or business.
  • Copies of your insurance policies (life, health, auto, homeowners).

Personal Documents

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of relatives and friends.
  • Copies of the following:
  • Marriage License
  • Birth Certificates
  • Drivers Licenses
  • CCW Permits
  • Pet Vaccine Records
  • Passports
  • Social Security Cards
  • List of firearm serial numbers.
  • Legal documents pertaining to child custody or adoption.
  • Recent photos of each family member and any pets.
  • Color photos of your house and each room in the house.
  • Photos of anything of particular value.
  • Military documents.
  • Diplomas and transcripts.
  • Appraisals.

Medical Documents

  • Copy of health insurance cards.
  • List of blood types for each family member.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all doctors.
  • Medical histories of each family member.
  • Immunization records.
  • List of current prescriptions, dosage, and pharmacy contact information.

Once your grab-and-go binder is finished, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you and your family can concentrate on a speedy evacuation without trying to retrieve important documents. Remember that being prepared is your best chance for a quicker recovery in any disaster situation!

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