Spring/Summer Weather Series: The Danger of Tornadoes
It is tornado season from March through May in Illinois, and the seasons are adjusted to suit the spring of anywhere you live, according to the likelihood of formation of a tornado. The maximum amount of occuring tornadoes happen in the time slot of the afternoon and evening, with 50% occurring between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. In Illinois alone, the average of 64 tornadoes per year based on 1998-2007 data. As we seen last December, tornadoes can and do occur at any time of the year: December 10, 2021: Tornado Outbreak on Friday – Resources For Recovery. Although they do happen out of season, tornadoes are mostly a direct result of certain thunderstorms, with some dessert versions, dust-devils and fire-nadoes. A thunderstorm with a wall cloud and/or comma signature thunderstorm can be a breeding ground for the formation of tornadoes. I have featured in articles the past: #Tornado. Tornadoes come at a high price in the areas struck due to the maximum energy released during the onslaught of t tornado touchdown. The storm itself has the maximum energy available over any other storm in the shallow sector of area where the touchdown of a tornado occurs. Hurricanes have way more area and way more cumulative energy than that of a tornado–but if a tornado would compare in area, the energy would be way more than that of a hurricane. The amount of property damage and injury plus deaths that have been known to occur during a tornado touchdown make the average tornado very devastating. To maximum wind speed that ever occurred of any tornado that was recorded on doppler radar (since 1996) was the tornado that occured at Bridge Creek in Oklahoma, with a devastating wind speed of 302 mph which happened on March 5, 1999. Tornadoes rarely are over 1 mile wide, and are over 2 miles are fortunately even more rare. The widest tornado path carved that ever occurred of any tornado was the tornado that occured at El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31st, 2013 coming in with a path of 2.6 miles wide. The longest tornado path that ever occurred, and a part of the longest tornado family, was the tornado that occured from the Missouri border across Illinois into Indiana (with maximum severe damage and mass casualties in and near Charleston and Mattoon, Illinois) on May 26, 1917, which had a track of at least 293 miles. It is not exactly known which phenomenon of a tornado is necessary in nature that occurs, but even so, the onslaught of the torrential weather associated with a tornado is a fact of Mother Nature. Here,I am sharing some suggestions for more safety for the dangerous type of weather associated with the tornado. I will be featuring a clear and concise posts as the series of “Spring & Summer Weather Series” continues throughout the spring and summer months.
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GET READY FOR TORNADO SEASON NOW!
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, microburst 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.
- Visit the websites:
DURING THE STORM:
- If a siren is sounded, take cover immediately, do not question it. Put on shoes and a helmet when the tornado warning is issued. Shoes will protect your feet from any broken glass, debris and other wreckage in the aftermath of the storm. A helmet will protect your head from flying debris that can become fatal. Cover yourself with a mattress, sleeping bag, or thick blankets to help protect against falling debris. 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 will 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. Visit: Which disasters are covered by homeowners insurance? on the Insurance Information Institute
- 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.
Safety is the upmost important factor in I disaster. Once disaster strikes, the outcome of recovery both financially and just in general can be very disastrous in itself. I am reaching out to give Resources For Recovery information, should a disaster of any type strike, so that the information is available to you, for your reference. So here is my Disaster – Home, Family & Financial Toolkit.
RESOURCES & RECOVERY AFTER DISASTER: THE HOME & FAMILY + FINANCIAL TOOLKIT:
There are many disaster and emergency preparedness and assistance resources available for you to help you through the hard times rebuilding:
- American Red Cross: redcross.org
- American Red Cross – Contact and Locate Loved Ones: redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief/contact-and-locate-loved-ones
- American Red Cross – Find an Open Shelter: redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery/find-an-open-shelter
- American Red Cross – Safe and Well: 1-800-RedCross (1-800-733-2767)
- Apps – American Red Cross: redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps. Separate apps cover the subjects of: blood, earthquake, emergency, first aid, flooding, hero care, hurricanes, pet first aid, tornadoes, and wildfires.
- Pet owner disaster preparation and assistance (ASPCA): aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/aspca-mobile-app. This can assist with personalized missing pet recovery kits, creating digital lost pet flyers that can be shared instantly on the user’s social networks, advice on what to do with your pet before, during and after a storm or natural disaster, and the ability store a pet’s vital medical records and dietary needs, which can shave off precious time in the event of an emergency. This information can be easily stored and shared for your convenience as well.
- DisasterAssistance.gov: disasterassistance.gov provides information on how you might be able to get help from the U.S. Government before, during and after a disaster. If the President makes help available to individuals in your community after a disaster, you can visit this site to apply online.
- Disaster Distress Helpline: disasterdistress.samhsa.gov SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters and is dedicated to providing year-round immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories.
- Call: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): fema.gov FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
- Military OneSource: militaryonesource.mil Offers various articles and resources for emergency preparedness and natural disasters.
- Money Management in Times of Disaster: personal-finance.extension.org/money-management-in-times-of-disaster with information about Money Management during times of disaster:
- Money management in times of disaster: Preparation
- Returning to your damaged home
- Managing finances and making decisions after a disaster
- Ready.gov: ready.gov Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation. Ready and its Spanish language version Listo ask individuals to do three key things: (1) build an emergency supply kit, (2) make a family emergency plan and (3) be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.
- Sesame Street (Emergency Toolkits): sesamestreet.org/toolkits/emergencies has simple and easy resources to help you help children and others recover from an emergency.
- The National Terror Alert Response Center: nationalterroralert.com is a private homeland security blog and not affiliated with any government agency. We archive and comment on homeland security related news items from a variety of news sources and tips, as well as provide immediate updates on breaking stories, bulletins and any change in status to Homeland Security advisory. Nationalterroralert.com has become America’s leading source for homeland security news and information. A collaborative resource of news and analysis related to homeland security events, threats and trends. The National Terror Alert Response Network promotes homeland security emergency preparedness through awareness, education, community involvement and partnerships between individuals, groups and organizations. We strive to chronicle homeland security related news, trends and events in an effort to create national awareness and focus. It is our belief that through education and awareness some instances of terrorism may be prevented and through preparedness lives can be saved.
- TriCare: tricare.mil/disasterinfo In the event of a natural disaster, TriCare US Family Health Plan will post disaster-related information on their homepage. It’s important to know that your TriCare benefits will be maintained during any time of crisis. In the event of evacuation, please take the necessary precautions. In the case of an emergency, dial 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency room. Click on an icon below (on the TriCare website) to read alerts and emergency information in your area.
- TriCare emergency prescription refills: At times during emergencies, TriCare may authorize early refills for prescriptions. You will be notified via this site if early refills re authorized. TriCare officials remind beneficiaries that early refills are only authorized for beneficiaries who specifically indicate they are impacted by the emergency event.
When disaster strikes, this list helps assist you in getting the help and assistance that you need in order to put your life back together.
Tornado Myths and Facts:
- Myth: You are able to out-drive a tornado.
Fact: It is not possible to guarantee driving fast enough to out-drive the average tornado. By doing so the tornado can speed up towards your car on a gradient, as the tornado actually skips and there are no guarantees that it wouldn’t strike any taller object including a vehicle. The chance of the vehicle being lifted off the ground and becoming a missile is great.
- Myth: You are able to out-run a tornado.
Fact: It is not possible to run fast enough away from an oncoming tornado on an open field, and because you are taller than ground level, the approaching tornado will start spewing a disastrous amount of debris at you and/or lift you off of the ground, and chance of falling too far and being killed due to gravity and/or becoming a missile. Always seek shelter in the nearest ditch or low-lying area in the vicinity.
- Myth: I don’t see a tornado, so I am safe.
Fact: With the given facts that the Plainfield, Illinois tornado of August 28, 1990 has no photographs due to it’s invisibility, and it being brought to my attention by Clayton t gillaspy that there is no documented photo, tornadoes definitely do not follow a rule book to say, if you can’t see it that you are safe. The fact is that tornadoes can be obscured or even be completely invisible due to the rain and/or nearby clouds.. You have to be careful because there are way more than a few reports of “invisible” tornado touchdowns.
- Myth: I will be safe seeking shelter under an over-pass or viaduct.
Fact: Even though it may be enticing to seek the shelter of the protection of being under an over-pass or viaduct, and that there have been some truly awesome videos of people doing so–the fact is that an over-pass or viaduct are not rated for the amplitude of force emitted by an occuring tornado, and if the burst of force exceeds the break strength of the over-pass, the whole viaduct can be swept away completely in seconds, with you underneath, you would then have not only no protection, but the weight and force of being in the vicinity of all the weight of the flying debris and chance of impalement from the over-pass being wiped out. Also if the bridge is not completely wiped out, there is also chance that the over-pass could just fall on top of you and that you could become trapped underneath, or smashed under the weight of the falling bridge. With all outcomes, all results of seeking protection here would have a devastating outcome and possible death on impact of a tornado.
- Myth: We already had a tornado strike, so since tornadoes never strike twice in the same place, we are safe.
Fact: Tornadoes do not follow rules! The city of Cordell, Kansas was struck by a tornado on the same day of the year, May 20th–three years in a row in the years 1916, 1917 and 1918. To make matters worse, on January 22, 2012, in Guy, Arkansas, three tornadoes hit the same exact church all on the same day.
- Myth: I live in the big city in a skyscraper, so I am safe because tornadoes never hit in the big city.
Fact: Again tornadoes do not follow a rule book! The big city is not a protected area, just because the myth of the large building fending off a tornado is a possibility. The tornado is typically 5 to 10 miles tall, with a large part of the section of the tornado inside the cloud being a mystery. A tall building with a height of 500 to 1000 feet would never be able to deflect or destroy a tornado, and if they are in the way, The fact is that tornadoes have already struck in recent years in the cities of Miami, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Oklahoma City, Houston, Fort Worth, Nashville and Joplin MO. So the big city is not off limits to the truly devastating tornado.
- Myth: A large lake will protect nearby areas from a tornado.
Fact: Even though the effect of the lake causing the local stabilizing the current of winds, there are still no direct guarantee that a tornado would not affect boaters or beach goers. Some events include the March 8, 2000 Milwaukee County experience of its earliest tornado on record, at a time when Lake Michigan is climatologically its coldest temperature.
- Myth: There are no clouds or storms in the sky so I am safe from a tornado.
Fact: Tornadoes don’t always come with the thunderstorm! Dust-devils and fire-nadoes happen. Also another event on August 8, 2011 happened with an EF-0 tornado that developed on Lake Monona in the city of Madison, Wisconsin, in which stayed over the lake as a waterspout, not causing any damage due to being over the lake, incidentally having no thunderstorms in the area.
- Myth: I live in the mountains or river valley, so I am safe from any tornado.
Fact: While conditions aren’t optimal for tornado development on top of mountains or down in valleys between the mountains, tornadoes have been documented to cross the Appalachian Mountains and have crossed the 10,000 foot tall mountain in Yellowstone National Park. Strong tornadoes have also crossed in the Mississippi River and also other large rivers and even lakes.
- Myth: I have seeked shelter in the southwest corner of my home, so I will protected from flying debris.
Fact: You cannot guarantee that any corner of the house’s basement is off limits to the perils of a tornado touchdown. Fact is, it pays to be as low as possible, not near windows, and not in middles of halls or floors, or on a stairway. Under the stairs on basement level is way better, because of the structure of the break strength of the stairway.
- Myth: Since it is not always safe on the southwest side, I will go out and look to see which way the storm is moving to seek shelter in the corner of my home towards the storm.
Fact: Time to seek shelter is the only concern other than seeking the shelter itself. You may not even be able to see the tornado. Never go out to see what way a storm is going.
- Myth: I see a tornado and have the interest to follow it.
Fact: Storm chasers are individuals who have experience in the science of the storm, and they are even never always safe, but know not only a complete safety protocol, but have knowledge to avoid getting caught in the brunt of the storm. Never think it is safe to chase down a storm and/or try to photograph it thinking it is safe to do so.
- Myth: I am going to open the windows before a tornado in order to equalize the pressure inside the home in order to prevent the home from exploding.
Fact: Time to seek shelter is the only concern, and going around the house near windows wastes valuable time that could be used in finding a safe area to stay while the storm comes through. Also since you are not covered, you are closer being by windows to being swept away if and when the storm comes through. Finally, there is no direct proof to state better safety that a home with open windows is able to withstand a tornado strike and/or minimizing any damages by leaving windows open or closed.
- Myth: It is the winter months, so it is completely safe from being stuck by a tornado due to the fact that is not tornado season.
Fact: The tornado season is just like the hurricane season–they are suggested seasons whereby tornadoes are imminent. That never makes the determined season the only time that a tornado can happen. Remember way out of a “season” this last December in Illinois: December 10, 2021: Tornado Outbreak on Friday – Resources For Recovery. Tornadoes happen in all months, all places, maybe someday in Antarctica. It takes all three air masses, and our records on Antarctica only go back so far, so. . .never, say never!
- Myth: The shape and size of the tornado determines it’s strength.
Fact: Tornadoes are measured by the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Tornado Scale, and a tornado intensity level will be assigned to the tornado rated on a scale from EF0 to EF5. The added width, while adding area affected by the tornado, does not exactly make the scale higher due to being of more girth. The shape does not always determine strength either, as there have been some truly devastating winding tornadoes in the past.
- Myth: My mobile home is attracted to the tornado.
- Fact: Tornadoes are not any more attracted to a mobile home than any other tall object. Also the mobile home is not on a foundation, making it subject to the full brunt of the storm, putting anyone in the mobile home at risk of being sucked up, even fully into the air, just like a cow, car or truck. Always seek proper shelter in a mobile home, and practice evacuation drills, if you reside in a mobile home.
- Myth: The number of tornadoes have been Increasing due to more favorable weather.
- Fact: The number of tornadoes in the U.S. has increased since the year of 1950. But also the coincidence of this this may be most likely due to the general increase in the population, more trained storm spotters, better radar detection, more cameras, and better follow-up damage surveys. Looking over the facts of real news, there are no credible accounts to be able to state that the increase of tornadoes is due to global change.
- Myth: The tornado is the deadliest factor in the occurrence of a tornado.
- Fact: The fact is that getting hit by flying debris is the single most deadly aspect of any tornado. The force of flying debris can impale a tree with a straw of hay, piercing the bark of the tree and flying into the tree up to several inches, just like a bullet being fired from a gun. NEVER, ever stand out in the open with the brunt of the wind during a tornado, Seek cover at the earliest possible timing.
Visit the website for more myths: Tornado Myths on the Missouri Storm Aware page
A tornado is a nasty fact of life, but truly is a part of life that all have to deal with. They are not going away, and we need to be prepared, and be safe.