Yesterday was the 54th Anniversary of a massive, then F4 tornado that did devastating damage in the community of Oak Lawn, IL. The tornado left a 16 mile long path of over 200 yards wide and 33 deaths and a loss of over 100 homes including a family member, devastating damage to a high school and more. I therefore am providing tips and pointers on being prepared!
I live in tornado alley, and I have only seen a funnel cloud once, but the devastation they leave are disastrous and deadly. Any tornado consumes a relatively small area, but the devastation is absolutely phemonemal and disastrous. EF3 to EF5 Enhanced Fujita Scale are always very deadly, but any tornado should be adhered to your safety. The really bad thing about it is that they are so hard to predict ahead of time and they do not give a lot of time to prepare. Even though tornadoes have a season, they still can happen all year long. They happen whenever three things come in common: a warm, moist tropical air mass to the east of a low pressure zone, a maritime air mass to the north and east of the tropical air mass, and a strong fast-moving cold, continental air mass to the west. The three air masses move and when the storms line up to produce a super-cell that lines up in a classic comma shape on the radar are the types of thunderstorms that produce a tornado. Also it is important to note that an incoming hurricane when it makes landfall also is a breeding ground to produce tornadoes. Although tornadoes are most frequent in afternoon, they happen anytime, even at night–almost anywhere in the world. The United States is the country with the highest frequency of tornadoes.
It is important to pay attention whenever there are either a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, or a tornado watch in place on the area that your are in at the time, whether it be at home, work or whatever the activity you are engaged. A severe thunderstorm by definition is a thunderstorm that produces 1-inch hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or exceed 58 miles an hour. A severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are favorable to produce conditions that foster the breeding ground for production of a thunderstorm that can produce a super-cell, micro-burst or tornado. A micro-burst can be very damaging wind and possibly deadly, as it is a condition whereby a wind with rain comes down so fast with a sudden, powerful, localized air current, especially a downdraft. A severe thunderstorm warning means that the National Weather Service has issued a warning whereby trained storm spotters or Doppler weather radar indicate that a thunderstorm is or will produce dangerously large hail or high winds, capable of causing significant damage. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable in a thunderstorm to produce a tornado, whereby the above conditions as explained are present in a storm area and is issued as soon as it is possible to the proper zones and/or counties that will possibly be affected. A tornado warning means TAKE ACTION!! A tornado has been sighted or is indicated by a weather radar. Because of the amount of time whereby you are able to prepare between the issuing of a watch or warning and a tornado strike, there isn’t enough time to prepare ahead of time. Thence, being prepared ahead of time is crucial.
PREPARATION BEFORE TORNADO SEASON:
- Take photos to have handy for your information and insurance purposes on an ongoing basis. They may be necessary to assist your later damages from the storm.
- Stay informed by monitoring the storm by radio, and if power is still an option, plug in the TV, and/or internet. A battery operated NOAA.com weather radio on hand with fresh batteries is most helpful. Check the batteries two times per year before disaster strikes.
Pay attention to the latest storm warnings.
- Try to make sure you always bring proper ID with you at all times, you will need it to get back into the area that is devastated. The authorities try their best effort to secure an area that has been hit to minimize criminal activity that if the storm didn’t damage, criminals don’t have access to your valuables. Have battery operated security for backup.
- If you live in a mobile home or are in a vehicle or metal structure, have a plan of action in place so that safety is maximized. Be aware of an area of safety like a shelter area, ravine or ditch, as staying in a metal structure is not recommended due to the fact that tornadoes are attracted to metal objects.
- Practice a drill. Be ready and have a plan of action should disaster strike.
DURING THE STORM:
- If a siren is sounded, take cover immediately, do not question it. Do not go out into the storm for photos! Weather chasers are trained persons who take safety very seriously and have knowledge of the patterns to protect themselves from injury and possibility of death.
- Pay attention to the direct warning signs: dark, often greenish sky, wall clouds, an approaching cloud of debris including noisy patterns, hail often in the absence of rain, a wind that dies down and becoming very still.
- Be ready to move into cover. Always stay indoors during an alert, and do not venture outside because strong winds will blow things around. The force of a flying object can be deadly or devastating. During evacuation, stay away from windows and glass. Do not attempt to open or shut windows. Evacuate to a basement shelter if possible, if not a basement and if it is possible go under the stairway in the basement, as it provides great cover. The reason that basements are such good cover, is that debris moves sideways, over the basement, and becoming intertwined into the wind stream is minimized, and tornadoes move fairly fast. If your are on-grade, an inner windowless area of cover whill help minimize injuries or death. A bathtub or closet are also great assets in helping shield you from injury. NEVER be above grade or on anything but a main or basement level during the storm.
- There is no safe area above grade.
- Observe general lightning and flooding safety precautions.
Do not use landlines during any storm due to lightning safety.
- Never venture out until the storm has passed, and then be careful, especially walking, as sharp objects can be anywhere.
AFTER THE STORM:
- If you smell gas, do not use any phone including a cell phone.
- Have patience, as it takes some time in order to resolve any issue during a crisis.
- Report emergencies promptly, have patience, but avoid using the phone, except for emergencies, due to prudence and use during an emergency scenario.
- If you are not in the area during the storm have ID ready as checkpoints only allow officials, media, cleared parties and people with proper credentials to pass for safety and security.
- Access any and all damages carefully and pay attention to safety, including embedded glass and shrapnel. Have a first aid kit handy.
- Call insurance and only follow the following tips after proper accessing has been done, and don’t forget to take photos first before you fix damages. keep all receipts for supplies, fixing–for insurance or to claim a loss.
- Access the possibility and turn on utilities ONLY if possible.
- Check the sump pumps and drains, and make sure they are operating properly to assure that they are operating correctly.
- It may take several weeks to dispose of refuse, make sure if any waste is hazardous to dispose of properly.
- Access and have the repairs done, and fix the decor.
Tornadoes are a nasty fact of life, and they are hard to understand their existence. But like all weather, there is no way around them. They are not going away, and we need to be prepared, and be safe.
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