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Severe weather calls for planning and preparation

May 25, 2011

One of the many tornadoes that touched down in Oklahoma on 5-24-11

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most violent storms and can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in mere seconds. A tornado can produce winds up to 300 miles per hour and can produce a damage path that can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while others are covered with rain or nearby low-hanging clouds hide others from sight. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. That is why it is important to do everything you can to be prepared to take cover quickly if the occasion arises.

A few things to remember about tornadoes. The most important, no one knows for sure what a tornado is going to do, we can only guess. Tornadoes can appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms 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. Tornados can form over water (they are called waterspouts). According to meteorologists, tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.

Be alert to changing weather conditions is very important during tornado season.
Listen to a Weather Radio, commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information and make sure you stay up to date on what is happening in your area.

Look for approaching storms that may hit your area and these common dangers signs: dark and often greenish skies, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if it is rotating), and listing for a loud roar, which could warn you of an approaching tornado. If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

If you are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately! If you are in a building go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Try to put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

If you are in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

The most important things to remember if you are caught on the road is NOT to get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location. Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. And make sure to watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

If a tornado does hit your area remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as is the mental and physical well-being of residents.

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