Given the traumatic and devastating tornados that pummeled Texas this past week, the widespread damage and powerful tornadoes over the past few days, and the fact that we are now in the midst of tornado season, WeatherBug feels it is important that you Know Before™ when it comes to tornado safety. Below, you’ll find some great tips from FEMA, NOAA and the WeatherBug Meteorology team!
Some things you should know about twisters:
- They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
- They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
- The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
- The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
- Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
- Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
- Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
- Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
- Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time.
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:
- Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to WeatherBug for information.
- Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
BEFORE – Tornado Planning
First off, it is very important that you and/or your family have a tornado plan in place if you live in an area where twisters are prevalent. Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds, and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year.
Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster and communication plans (how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together). You’ll also want to build a kit well in advance of an emergency (food, water and other supplies that will last for at least 72 hours). Additionally, basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment and telephones may be cut off for days or even a week, or longer. Your supplies kit should contain items to help you manage during these outages.
Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (such as a mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc.) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds’ notice. When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Turn on local TV, radio, go to WeatherBug.com or download the WeatherBug application and stay alert for warnings.
Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you! If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where there are bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelter areas away from windows, and the shortest ways to get there.
Memorize the following signs of a twister:
- Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
- Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
- Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
- Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder (some say it sounds like a freight train).
- Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
- Night – Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.
DURING – Seek Shelter Immediately!
If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately! Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.
|IF YOU ARE IN:||THEN:|
|A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)||
|A trailer or mobile home||
|The outside with no shelter||
AFTER – Injuries and Safety
Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so. Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound. Have any puncture wound evaluated by a physician. If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.
Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:
- Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
- Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
- Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
- Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
- Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
- Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper – or even outside near an open window, door or vent. Carbon monoxide (CO) – an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if you breathe it – from these sources can build up in your home, garage or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
- Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
- Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
- Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.
Inspecting the damage precautions:
- After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
- In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
- If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
- If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
- If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments, or State Fire Marshal’s office and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.
Safety during clean up:
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves.
- Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
- Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.
Fewer thunderstorms rumble across the Plains each year, but the storms form in an area where the chance for tornadoes is higher in the spring and early summer because the conditions for tornadoes are more favorable.
If you live in a high-risk area (shown in the map above), be sure to download WeatherBug on your mobile phone to get the fastest severe weather alerts so you stay ahead of the curve and Know Before™ danger strikes:
Download WeatherBug w/ Spark for Android:
Download WeatherBug w/ Spark for iPhone:
Know the Facts – http://www.ready.gov/kids/know-facts
Be Informed – http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes