Friday, May 13, 2011

More Twisters!

"Then the air was filled with 10,000 things. Boards, poles, cans, garments, stoves, whole sides of the little frame houses, in some cases the houses themselves, were picked up and smashed to earth. And living beings, too. A baby was blown from its mother's arms. A cow, picked up by the wind, was hurled into the village restaurant."
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 1925
Last month the South was hammered by tornadoes. Two weeks ago a massive thunderstorm created 137 tornadoes, killing over 180 people, and destroying sections of Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville, Ala. Do you know what to do if a tornado is reported?

* Know where to go
If caught outdoors, where is the nearest shelter? If you live in a mobile home, leave it!  A tornado can tip, roll, and destroy mobile homes.

* Know what to bring to a shelter
After the tornado has passed you may find your home completely destroyed. Your go-kit should include identification, copies of important financial documents, insurance contracts, important contact information, and anything else you'll need to access your money and rebuild.

* Know who to contact
Have a relative outside your community serve as an emergency contact so if family members are caught by the storm in different locations, they can call their status and state what shelter they can be found at.

* Listen for NOAA tornado watches and warnings
As described yesterday, there are free and fee services that can alert you to a NOAA weather event in your area. NOAA weather radios will wake you up if a storm system arrives overnight, when you're sleeping.

Tornado WATCH = keep a eye to the sky. Conditions are favorable for tornadoes so prepare.
Tornado WARNING = a funnel cloud or its precursor has been spotted. Get to safety immediately.

* Know the local counties
If there's a Tornado Warning for Rockland county - how far away is that? Should you worry? At home I know the neighboring NY counties but no clue about Connecticut where I work.

* Get away from windows
The main danger is flying debris from high winds. Find a room that is window free if possible. Go to the lowest room or basement in the house (tornadoes can rip off the tops of homes.)  Duck under a sturdy piece of furniture and hang on.

* What to do if outdoors
If you are outdoors, lie flat on the ground in the lowest spot you can find and cover your head with your arms. Ditches or holes are great but don't spend so much time searching that the tornado catches you standing up.

* After the twister passes...
Don't enter damaged buildings - they may collapse on you. Leaky gas mains may start fires or explosions. Stay far away from downed power lines. Keep listening to weather reports, since the storm may be part of a system spawning several tornadoes.

Bottom Line

Here are some tornado myths from the Christian Science Monitor:

Myth: If a tornado comes, it will inflict less damage if you open your windows to equalize the air pressure inside and outside the structure.
Fact: don't bother; the tornado-blown debris will shatter your windows. It's not pressure but high winds that will cause damage.

Myth: If you're caught outside when a tornado approaches, head for a highway underpass. It will shelter you.
Fact: an underpass won't provide much shelter from wind or debris. Lie flat in a ditch instead.

Myth: A tornado can't happen here.
Fact: They happen in every state.

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