Tornado Safety: Be Safe This Tornado Season
April 3, 2012

Tornado Safety: Be Safe This Tornado Season Meteorologist Joshua Kelly

Now that the 2012 severe weather season is upon us it is time to look at a few things that you can do to help prepare yourself and family.

First, the National Weather Service this week has started working with new alarm systems that are going to provide more significant terminology meant to get the point across that these storms can and will cause damage.  So expect to see this slowly start making its way across the country to other warming systems.

The next thing is to prepare yourself based on where you live. For example if you live in a house that doesn´t have a basement, then you need to take yourself and your family to the sturdiest room in the house. This can be anything from the bathtub to the closet in the middle of the house.  The big thing is to make sure to avoid being around any windows if possible. Also place yourself under a sturdy object such as a table or if in the bathtub take extra blankets and pillows which will help you shelter your head from falling debris.

If you are in a mobile home or RV-style house, then it is very important to evacuate. If you don´t have a fallout shelter in the ground then it is very important to find the nearest low lying place, such as a ditch, and take cover there. When taking cover in a ditch it is very important that you lie as flat as possible. This is to allow you to not be exposed to the elements of the tornado. Also, I would take a blanket or pillow to cover yourself while in the ditch for more protection.

For anyone that lives in a house with a basement, just head to the basement and take cover in the center of the basement away  from the outer walls and any doors and windows that you may have in your basement.

Some basic terminology that you should be familiar with as the tornado season starts:

- The first term is known as a “tornado watch” and this means conditions are favorable for the development of tornados so be on the watch for them.

- The second is “tornado warning.” This term means that a tornado either has been spotted or the Doppler radar has detected a storm capable of producing a tornado so to take cover now.

- Third is “severe thunderstorm watch.” This means that conditions are favorable for storms that will be capable of producing large hail, damaging winds, and heavy rain.

- Next, is the “severe thunderstorm warning.” This means that a storm capable of producing the above mentioned things is occurring or will be occurring soon.

All of these terms should be taken series when issued by the local National Weather Service.

What makes it hard to prepare for tornadoes is that sometimes tornadoes can form rapidly, not allowing for proper warning times. Tornadoes are one of nature´s hardest storms to forecast and as time goes on we will see improvements on time for warnings, but it´s important that when you hear the tornado warning you go to shelter as there probably won´t be much time.

Also remember there are places in the United States that are prone to more tornadoes than others. These are referred to as “Tornado Alleys” such as the one that extends from Texas northward into the Northern Plains. Also there is another one referred to as “Dixie Alley” which runs from Tennessee across Northern Mississippi and Alabama and also parts of Kentucky.  The key to this is to remember tornadoes can occur anywhere when the  conditions are right, so don´t get too comfortable just because you don´t live in one of these alleys. That you will never get hit by a storm is simply not true.

Even though we have a defined tornado season, tornadoes can occur anytime of the year so we need to always be on the watch.

The best places to find more information about tornado warnings and watches for your area are local television stations or also by going to the website and clicking on “weather.” This will take you to the local weather office in your area. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman Oklahoma has the overall responsibility for watching the severe weather patterns and then they pass the data to the local national weather services who will then relay it to the television stations. If you want the best advice and the earliest warnings even before it hits the television, go to the NWS website and you can read their weather discussions even before the severe weather begins as they usually provide a detailed discussion on when things are going to happen for that day.