How to Protect Yourself from Tornadoes

Watching the tornado in Oklahoma reminds me of when I lived in the Midwest (Michigan and Illinois).  Every summer we would worry about the thunderstorms and the tornadoes that went with them.  While our home was never hit, I spend some time lying in a ditch while one took the roof off the building I was laying next too.  This was in Illinois and took out the trailer park next to us.  That was about 50 years ago and I can still remember it like it was yesterday.

Tornados can come with very little warning and can occur anywhere in the United States, although they are much more likely to occur in the Midwest or south.

There are some signs to watch for, if you see the following signs turn on your radio or TV and tune in the weather channel.

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

Sighting a Funnel Cloud

If you see a funnel cloud nearby, take shelter immediately.  However, if you spot a tornado that is far away, help alert others to the hazard by reporting it to the newsroom of a local radio or TV station before taking shelter.

Have a plan and know where members of your family can gather if a tornado is headed your way.  One basic rule is to stay away from windows.  The glass from exploding windows can injure or kill you.  The old myth about opening windows to equalize the pressure is wrong, don’t waste your time.

The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basement or a storm shelter. If there is no basement, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet.  Put as many walls as possible between you and the tornado.

For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head with anything available, even your hands.  If you are in a two-story house, avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects, such as pianos or refrigerators, on the floor directly above you.  They can fall though the floor, if the tornado strikes your house.

If you are in a mobile home, get out, you are better off outside.  Mobile homes can be easily flipped over during a tornado and will provide no protection.

If you are in a motor vehicle, stop and get out, you are better off outside laying in a ditch by the side of the road.

If you are outside do the following.

  • Avoid areas with many trees.
  • Avoid vehicles.
  • Lie down flat in a gully, ditch, or low spot on the ground.  Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Protect your head with an object or with your arms.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

If you can afford it, have an underground tornado shelter, separate from your home.  These are also a great place to store food, since the temperature is fairly cool all year long.

Have a radio in your home that will receive the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) alerts.  This is a radio you can set in a standby mode that will sound a warning when a weather alert is put out for your area.

Tomorrow I will post information on a radio that I recommend.  A lot of this information has been posted in the pasted, however I though with tornado season upon us it is worth reposting.


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