How Can You Survive Tornadoes?
A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air in contact with both the surface of the Earth and the stormy clouds above. This fierce windstorm is also often referred to as a whirl wind or twister.
Most tornadoes are found in the Great Plains of the central United States, because it’s an ideal environment for the formation of severe thunderstorms. In this area, known as Tornado Alley, storms are caused when dry cold air moving south from Canada meets warm moist air traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico.\
Tornados are hugely destructive forces of nature. If you find yourself face to face with one, quick thinking is needed. In this episode of The Infographics Show, we’ll attempt to work out: What Is The Safest Place During a Tornado?
A close encounter with a tornado
On August 3 this year, 12-year-old Hayley and her 10-year-old brother, Hunter Oleschak were among 40 people who huddled in the basement of their grandparents’ home near Margaret Bruce Beach while an F-4 tornado tore across the property on its way to Lake Manitoba.
The power of a tornado is categorized on the Fujita Tornado Intensity, or F Scale with ratings from F1 to F5; 5 being the most destructive. The F4 that these two children survived is considered devastating with winds between 207 and 260 mph. The tornado that hit the Alonsa area killed one man, 77-year-old Jack Furrie, and destroyed several homes, trailers, vehicles and farm structures. It also destroyed an outbuilding on the Oleschak property.
CBC News reported that both Hunter and Hayley saw and heard the twister as it chewed its way across the RM of Alonsa. They said they spent their time in the basement of their home, huddled under a mattress, placed there by their dad, “just in case a tree fell on the house,” Hunter said.
So in this case it looks like a mattress acted as good tornado safety cover for young Haley and Hunter. What other recommendations are out there if you find yourself in the heart of a tornado? Oklahoma is located in Tornado Alley, and so there’s no better place to seek advice than from the website of the Oklahoma Emergency Medical Services Authority, or EMSA. Here’s the advice they give on the safest places to be during tornado season:
How to prepare for a tornado
In terms of how much time you have to play with, if a tornado has been spotted by the weather radar, you need to seek shelter immediately. A basement or storm shelter underground is by far the safest place to be, but you may not have time to reach one, in which case you’ll need to improvise and find the safest place possible.
If you are at home when the storms hits, here is the advice:
1. If you have a cellar, storm shelter, safe room or basement available, go immediately to that area. If none of these options are available to you, then you should get to the lowest level of your home.
2. Find the nearest windowless interior room, such as a bathroom, closet or inner hallway.
3. Stay as far from windows as possible – they will shatter when the storm hits.
4. Go to the center of the room for tornado safety – corners tend to attract debris.
5. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture; a heavy table or desk, and hold on to it. Or a mattress if one is available.
6. And protect your head and neck with a blanket, if possible.
That’s the advice if you live in a bricks and mortar house…
But what if you live in a mobile during tornado season?
Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to tornadoes. Even if they have been anchored down they can still be easily overturned by the strong swirling winds. If you are in a mobile home when a tornado is approaching, evacuate the home immediately.
1. If possible, find the nearest building with a strong foundation and take shelter there.
2. If a shelter is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the mobile home.
3. Use your arms to protect your head and neck from the tornado’s might.
4. Stay alert to the potential for flooding.
If you are at work or school when a tornado strikes:
1. Go to the basement or an inside hallway at the lowest level.
2. Avoid places with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gymnasiums, large hallways or shopping malls.
3. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture such as a desk or heavy table.
4. Use your arms to protect head and neck
If you are in a vehicle, never try to outrun a twister tornado.
Tornadoes can change direction quickly; a car is no match for the strong tornado gusts and can be tossed through the air. Get out of the vehicle immediately and take shelter in a nearby building. And if there is no time to take shelter, use the same advice when stranded outside: lie in a ditch or low-lying area, use your arms to protect your head and neck, and stay alert to the potential for flooding.
How can you stay ready during a hurricane?
Those are a few suggestions on how to protect yourself if a tornado hits, but it’s also sensible to be as prepared as you can. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, the best way to stay safe during a tornado is to have the following items on hand: Fresh batteries and a battery-operated TV, radio, or internet-enabled device to listen to new emergency weather information; A tornado emergency plan including access to a “safe shelter” for yourself and for people with special needs; An emergency kit, including water, non-perishable food, and medication; and a list of important information, including telephone numbers.
And of course it’s always sensible to be aware of the weather conditions…As well as keeping an eye on the sky, if you know thunderstorms are expected, stay tuned to local radio and TV stations. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) there is no guaranteed safety during a tornado. Even the possibility of a tornado must be taken seriously.
A devastating force of nature!
In 2016 the tornado season claimed the lives of 18 individuals and injured another 325. 78% of those victims were in a mobile home or trailer park at the time of the tornado. These storms caused an estimated $183 million in property damage. Although the most violent tornadoes can level and blow away almost any house and those within it, extremely violent F5 tornadoes are very rare and most tornadoes are much weaker.
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Do you live in Tornado Alley and maybe you’ve even seen one of these destructive forces of nature in action. Let us know in the comments.