About a year ago a colleague and friend of mine were discussing the dangers of living in our respective states. We agreed that wild fires were a problem in both California and Texas. I said that living with earthquakes in California was pretty scary. Jennifer said it wasn’t so bad because earthquakes just happen, they last a minute or so and then it’s over. She said the really scary problems were tornadoes- they can last a much longer time, are unpredictable in their movement and the weather forecasters hype the “warning” and “watch” areas for extended periods of time. They dwell on “hooked cloud formations” and “areas of rotation.” That’s scary! Jennifer was right about two things- tornadoes are pretty scary and there is often a lot of warning that they are coming.
On January 7 and 8, 2008 storms in Missouri recorded 33 tornadoes in a 12 hour period. A storm system on February 7 spawned 67 tornadoes that covered an eight state area from Arkansas to Georgia. On May 10 a storm system created tornadoes with wind speeds estimated at 165 to 175 mph which spread across Oklahoma, Missouri and Georgia. There have been 473 tornadoes reported this year compared to an average of 187 over the past three years. According to the National Weather Service 2008 is on a pace to be the worst season since 1998 when 130 people died from tornado related deaths. The worst year for tornado fatalities was 1953 with 519 deaths.
Tornadoes are scary, but there is a lot a person can do to survive these mighty storms. One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Even if you don’t spend the day around the TV listening to news (no, playing video games doesn’t count), listen to forecasts, check cloud formations, listen for thunder. If the skies look threatening, turn on the weather channel or listen to a radio. Understand the terms used in forecasting weather. A “Tornado Watch” means that tornadoes are possible in the area. A “Tornado Warning” means that a tornado has been spotted or formations mean a tornado is highly likely in your area.
What to look for if a tornado is likely:
If you are at home when a tornado strikes, go to a basement (if available), away from the south and west walls. If no basement is available, go to a windowless interior room like a bathroom or closet. Get beneath a heavy table or piece of furniture. Cover yourself with a blanket or cushion.
In a school, go out of the gym and stay away from outside halls as much as possible. Go interior rooms and stay away from windows. Crouch and be as small as possible.
The most factors in surviving in a tornado area is to be aware of the surroundings, recognize the signs of an impending tornado and know safety procedures.