If you live in the Midwest, you are likely quite familiar with what to do should you find out a tornado is heading your way. However, if you live on the West coast, East coast, or in the South, you are less likely to be familiar with the steps you need to take when a tornado is coming. Here are some key tips to remember that will help keep you safe (and may save your life) in the event you find yourself victim to one of weather’s most dangerous storms:
- Signs of a Tornado: If you are outside and the weather is hot and windy with dark or puffy clouds surrounding the sky, start watching for the following signs: sudden shift in temperature to cold, reduced or no wind, blackening sky (almost like night), clouds that turn a greenish color, lightning, heavy rain accompanied by hail, and heavy, loud thunder. These signs will increase in measure the closer the tornado comes toward you.
Watch the sky for clouds that rotate, but have not yet formed a “funnel”. As the clouds rotate, they will begin to pick up speed and form what is known as a funnel cloud. This is the first sign of a tornado-and if you have not already sought shelter-do so immediately. It is also important to listen for something that sounds very loud-almost like a freight train. Tornadoes bring their own noise with them so if you don’t first see the tornado, you will likely hear it!
- Turn on your TV or Radio, and Pay Attention: When there is an impending tornado, your local TV and radio stations will have weather alerts on. A “Tornado Watch” indicates that conditions are favorable for a tornado. This would be a great time to start prepping the room you would need to use as shelter in the event a tornado actually does come. A “Tornado Warning” means an actual tornado has been spotted and verified by the National Weather Service, and you should seek shelter immediately until the danger has passed.
- Where to Go in a Tornado: The best place to be during a tornado is the basement of your home, away from windows and doors. If you do not have a basement, the next best place is a room that is centrally located in your home with no windows (large closets will also work well). Tornadoes will rip off the top of your home first-but will most likely rip around the outside of your home, too. The basement or innermost room within your home are the two safest places to be when the tornado comes.
If you happen to be in your car when a tornado warning is issued, or you happen to see a funnel cloud or tornado yourself, you need to pull over by the side of the road and lie flat in a ditch, under a concrete bridge, or as close to a river or creek as you possibly can. Tornadoes will not cross water, so if you are close to a river or creek, that is the safest place to be. Do not hang on to a tree or a building, as trees can be ripped from the ground by their roots or struck by lightning. Again, lie flat on the lowest level ground possible, most preferably near or in a creek or river.
- Room Preparation for a Tornado: Some items you will want to make sure you have with you in the event you are in a tornado or very severe thunderstorm and lose power include: flashlight with new batteries, candle with matches, blankets, pillows, a few bottles of water, snack crackers, a cell phone, and a battery-powered radio. Remember any prescription medicines you may need as well-and keep them tucked closely by you in the event the tornado does hit and damage your house.
- What to do with Your Pets: Take them with you to the shelter room. If you have dogs, remember a leash and keep them on it until the storm passes. Also, if possible, try to remember treats or a little dog food so they are well taken care of should you need to stay elsewhere for a few days.
The above information is important to remember in the event of a tornado. Try to have a “family plan” established for bad weather, and remind your kids repeatedly of what they should do if a tornado warning is issued. Keeping the above listed items in mind the next time the need arises may very well save your life as well as the lives of your loved ones.