If you live in the midwest, May is tornado season. It seems you spend a lot of sleepless nights watching the weather waiting for the sirens to sound or to be told to take cover. Here in Oklahoma, you can tell who the natives are. When the weather gets bad, transplants to Oklahoma are taking cover or even leaving town. Native Oklahomans go outside to see for themselves! I myself have had a couple of very close brushes with tornadoes. On May 3, 1999, a F5 tornado tore through several Oklahoma cities. In fact, it skipped right over where I was living at the time. When it crossed the interstate about 3 miles north of me, the tornado was a mile wide. Tornadoes can cause a lot of damage. While an F1 tornado may only remove a few shingles from your roof and break a few tree branches, an F5 tornado will leave nothing left of your home but the foundation as shown in this overhead view of an entire neighborhood wiped out by the May 3, 1999 tornado. You need to be prepared with a plan before a tornado strikes. While warning systems have improved, tornadoes are unpredictable and can change direction without warning. * In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while peak months in the northern states are during the summer. * Note, in some states, a secondary tornado maximum occurs in the fall. * Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m. but have been known to occur at all hours of the day or night. * The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 mph. * The total number of tornadoes is probably higher than indicated in the western states. Sparce population reduces the number reported. If a tornado watch is issued for your area, it means that tornadoes are possible. When a tornado warning is issued, it means that a tornado has been spotted in or near your area. Tornado Myths: MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes. FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980′s, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain. MYTH: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to “explode” as the tornado passes overhead. FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage. MYTH: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage. FACT: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place. MYTH: Bridges and overpasses are good places to ride out the storm if you have to leave your car. FACT: Bridges and overpasses offer no protection from the high winds and debris from a tornado. Instead, find a ditch or nearby business with a tornado shelter such as a fast food restaurant or truck stop. FAMILY DISASTER PLAN Families should be prepared for all hazards that affect their area. NOAA’s National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the American Red Cross urge each family to develop a family disaster plan. Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere – at work, at school, or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe? Disasters may force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones – were cut off? Follow these basic steps to develop a family disaster plan… 1. I.Gather information about hazards. Contact your local National Weather Service office, emergency management or civil defense office, and American Red Cross chapter. Find out what type of disasters could occur and how you should respond. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans. 2. II.Meet with your family to create a plan. Discuss the information you have gathered. Pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Choose an out-of-state friend as your “family check-in contact” for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate. 3. III.Implement your plan (1) Post emergency telephone numbers by phones; (2) Install safety features in your house, such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers; (3) Inspect your home for potential hazards (such as items that can move, fall, break, or catch fire) and correct them; (4) Have your family learn basic safety measures, such as CPR and first aid; how to use a fire extinguisher; and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home; (5) Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number; (6) Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Assemble a disaster supplies kit with items you may need in case of an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as backpacks or duffle bags. Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller disaster supplies kit in the trunk of your car. A DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT SHOULD INCLUDE: A 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoilitem one change of clothing and footwear per personitem one blanket or sleeping bag per personitem a first-aid kit, including prescription medicinesitem emergency tools, including a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteriesitem an extra set of car keys and a credit card or cashitem special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members. 4. IV.Practice and maintain your plan. Ask questions to make sure your family remembers meeting places, phone numbers, and safety rules. Conduct drills. Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions. Replace stored water and food every six months.
I hope everyone has a safe Tornado Season, and that no one get's hurt!