How to prepare for tornado season

Tornado season 2021

With over 1,000 occurrences each year, the United States has the strongest, most violent, and frequent tornado events in the world. Although they are more prevalent in certain areas of the country, there is no state that has not been affected by a tornado, so it is important that everyone learns not only how tornadoes form, but also what to do to prepare and protect yourself throughout the tornado. season and beyond.

What you should know about tornadoes

What weather conditions create a tornado?

A tornado begins when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air. Initially, the cooler air is pushed over the warmer air, but as this warmer air rises it creates a horizontal rotation – think of a log spinning on water. This movement feeds on itself, sucking in more hot air and increasing the speed of rotation. In some cases, the rising hot air will tilt this rolling column of air until it forms a vertical vortex. It is the humidity in the warmer air that creates the visible rotating cloud that is the familiar shape of the tornado.

Where do tornadoes occur?

Although tornadoes can occur anywhere warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air, in the United States it occurs much more frequently in areas of the country designated as Tornado Alley and Dixie. Alley. Although the boundaries of Tornado Alley are loosely defined, it is generally considered the region of the central United States that stretches from Texas to South Dakota. Dixie Alley, on the other hand, includes the states along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. While Tornado Alley has more tornadoes, Dixie Alley’s tend to be more destructive.

When is tornado season?

While a tornado can form any time of the year when conditions are favorable, most occur from spring through summer. Tornadoes in Dixie Alley tend to occur early in the season, while tornadoes in the northern Tornado Alley region occur later in the season. In fact, tornado activity is often located around jet streams, rapid air currents that always move from west to east and form the dividing line between cold northern air and warm air. from the south (in the northern hemisphere). From early spring to late summer, the location of the jet stream flowing through the United States changes, which is why the likelihood of tornadoes also increases or decreases in some areas throughout the tornado season. .

How tornadoes are classified

On February 1, 2007, the Fujita Enhanced Scale or EF Scale became the official way to assess the strength or strength of a tornado. There are six levels ranging from EF0 to EF5, with EF0 being the weakest (65-85 mph) and EF5 being the strongest (over 200 mph). It is important to understand that the EF scale is an estimate of wind speed based on the damage that occurs, it is not an actual measurement.

Warning signs of an approaching tornado

When the National Weather Service issues a Tornado Watch, it means the weather conditions are favorable and the agency is monitoring an event. A tornado warning, on the other hand, means that a tornado is occurring or is expected to develop and action must be taken immediately.

When a tornado is imminent, there are a few telltale signs that can alert you. Dark greenish-colored skies with black thunderstorm clouds along with large hail and decreased wind activity can be warning signs of a tornado. Descending funnel clouds and a roar like an approaching freight train are also clear signs that you are in a danger zone. A swirling cloud of debris with no visible funnel may also be evidence of an approaching tornado.

What are the dangers of a tornado?

Tornado activity can range from staying stationary to traveling at up to 60 mph and lasting from an instant to several hours. The average tornado lands for five minutes and travels at 10-20 mph. The most dangerous aspect of a tornado is the powerful updraft, which is strong enough to lift vehicles and homes off the ground and pull them to great heights in the air. Flying debris, however, is responsible for most injuries and deaths in a tornado. After a tornado has passed, hazards range from walking on a nail and falling objects, to fire, electric shock and explosion.

How to prepare for tornado season

Surviving a tornado depends on planning, preparation and action. The following tips can help with planning and preparation, but only you can do it.

Stay aware of weather conditions

Meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publish daily forecasts for severe organized thunderstorms and closely monitor areas that appear to be at higher risk for tornadoes. Listening to a NOAA Weather Radio can keep you up to date with changing weather conditions in your area so you know when to act. Also, be aware of the weather conditions listed in the previous “Tornado Warning Signs Approaching” section of this article.

Have an emergency plan

The first step you need to take to prepare for tornado season is to have a detailed family plan in place. This plan should cover discussions with your family about what constitutes a safe shelter, what part of the house will be designated as a safe room, what to do if you are not together when a tornado arises, and more. . The plan should also outline the specific tasks of family members, such as who is responsible for pets and who is responsible for collecting supplies, as more hands do less work. Finally, since dangers may remain after a tornado has passed, your plan should also include what to do after the tornado has passed.

Assemble an emergency tornado kit

Your tornado emergency kit should contain essential items in the following categories.

protein bars

Food and water: A minimum of three days of food and water should be the top priority in your tornado emergency kit. That means three gallons of water for each family member and three days of non-perishable foods such as protein bars, nuts, canned vegetables, breakfast cereals, multivitamin and more.

first aid kit

First aid, health and hygiene: Besides a set first aid kit, you should have at least a week’s worth of medication as well as hearing aids, glasses, contact lenses, or whatever else you may need. Have a N95 respirator for each family member is also highly recommended. Finally, make sure you have a stock of items needed for personal hygiene such as soap, dental floss and hand sanitizer.

emergency radio

Communication, lighting and emergency power: While it is essential to have a cell phone with you in an emergency, you should also consider a emergency radio to help you stay on top of current conditions. It is also useful to have emergency lighting and many emergency power sources to keep your devices working.

document bag

Important documents and papers: Keep all your important documents such as financial documents, immunization records, identification documents, insurance policies and more in a fire and water resistant case document bag. This becomes vital in an emergency.

Tornado insurance coverage

Most tornado damage is caused by wind and hail, which are likely already covered by your home insurance policy. However, flooding and other types of damage may not be covered. If you live in an area with a higher tornado rate, it is advisable to sit down with your insurance agent to determine exactly what your tornado policy covers.

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