I hate tornadoes. I can’t imagine anyone liking tornadoes especially if they have lived through one. As a kid, I used to have nightmares about tornadoes. I’m not sure exactly why, but maybe because of the tornado films, and movies I saw in school.
A tornado is a violent and destructive column of rotating air usually shaped as a funnel. A tornado becomes dark in appearance because it picks up dirt and debris from the ground. It can move along the ground at an average speed of 30 miles an hour, however it can go slower or even approaching 70 miles an hour. Wind speeds are a different story. Tornado wind speed can range from 65 miles an hour to over 200 miles an hour. There is a rating scale for tornadoes called the Fujita Scale (F Scale). As of 2007, there is an Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF). You will hear tornadoes rated this way. Below is the EF Scale:
Knowing the Difference Between Warnings and Watches
Tornado Watch: Conditions are possible for tornadoes in and near the watch area.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has been spotted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Seek shelter under ground or an interior room.
Preparing for Tornadoes
Be sure you have a battery or hand-crank powered NOAA Weather Radio.
Per the Red Cross:
- During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
- Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
- Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
- Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
- Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the FEMA web site.
- Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
- Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
- Watch for tornado danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish clouds – a phenomenon caused by hail
- Wall cloud – an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
- Cloud of debris
- Large hail
- Funnel cloud – a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
- Roaring noise
What to do during a tornado
- Again from the Red Cross:
- The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
- If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
- Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
- Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
- If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
- Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
- Do not wait until you see the tornado.
If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
- Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:̶
- Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
- If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
- Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.