May 24, 2011

There is no such thing as being completely safe inside a tornado. And this is a very bad year for tornadoes in the United States. So far, nearly 50 deadly tornadoes have touched down in the United States in 2011. That’s more than twice as much as the yearly average of killer tornadoes in years past. And it’s only May.

Photo: Charlie Riedel / AP

The deadliest tornado in nearly 60 years and the second major deadly twister in a month struck Joplin, Missouri on Monday, May 23. The half-mile-wide twister blasted through the Missouri town killing more than 100 people and leveling thousands of buildings. The devastation was so complete that the city’s south side has been nearly destroyed.

There’s not much that you can say about safety in a tornado that big and that strong. But MOST tornadoes are much weaker and CAN be survived. Listen to tornado forecasts and pay attention to the warnings.

Here are some things to look for before a tornado arrives:

  • The sky turns dark or greenish-black during the day.
  • Dust or debris whirls on the ground under a cloud.
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast wind shift.
  • Night: Small, bright flashes at ground level during a thunderstorm. This means power lines are being snapped by the winds.
  • Funnel-shaped clouds may appear-but not always.

 Here’s what to do:

  • In a house with a basement, avoid windows and go to the basement. 
  • Get under a workbench or heavy table. 
  • Cover your whole body with a mattress of sleeping bag.
  • KNOW where heavy objects are on the floor above (like a refrigerator) and don’t go under them. They may fall through the weakened floor.
  • In a house with no basement, avoid windows and go to the lowest floor to a small center room like a bathroom or closet. Cover yourself with some sort of padding.
  • In a large building, go to the center of the building on the lowest floor possible. Then crouch down and cover your head. Stay off elevators.
  • In a mobile home, get out! If your community has a tornado shelter, go there. Otherwise lie flat on the ground away from your home away from trees and cars. Cover your head with your hands.
  • At school, follow the drill. Get to an inside hall or room. Crouch low, head down with your arms over your head.
  • Cars and trucks are NOT safe during a tornado. Get out! Either seek shelter in a strong building or lie flat on the ground, face down, arms over your head.

Remember that the best protection from most tornadoes comes from receiving and acting upon an early warning and knowing what to do in advance.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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