I have always been a weather fanatic, or nerd, since I was a small child. This single event is what got me fired up to become a meteorologist, so I can help make a difference in keeping people safe during severe weather. Now let's get to the topic at hand.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air usually descending from thunderstorms that makes contact with the ground. Wind speeds with a tornado can be as week as 65 MPH, but can reach upwards of 200 MPH and beyond. The fastest wind speed ever recorded in a tornado was 318 MPH, one that hit Moore Oklahoma back in 1999.
Tornadoes come in all shapes and sizes... In the Plains, most tornadoes are easy to see with low precipitation being involved and plenty of open spaces with hardly any obstructions. In the southeast, they are usually hard to see because they are rain-wrapped or hidden by the terrain. Either way, your safety depends on being constantly aware during severe weather events.
Understanding Tornado Alerts
What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?
- A Tornado Watch means that tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or if you believe a tornado is approaching.
- A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar. Take action! There is imminent danger to life and property.
What To Do During A Tornado
Be prepared! Acting quickly is key to minimizing impacts and staying safe.
- Stay Weather Aware: During a severe weather threat, pay close attention to your reliable sources of watches and warnings and be ready to act in case a warning is issued.
- In Your Home: If a tornado warning is issued for your location, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room on the lowest floor, away from windows. Get under something sturdy. Put on a helmet if possible.
- At Work or School: Proceed to the designated shelter area. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as auditoriums, cafeterias, or gymnasiums.
- Outdoors: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe.
- In A Vehicle: You are not safe at all inside a vehicle during a tornado. Drive to the substantial structure and go inside. If one is not available, stay in the car, buckle up and get down OR seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
- Stay Informed: Continue to listen to local television or radio coverage or NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings. Multiple rounds of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes are possible during severe weather outbreaks.
- Contact Family and Loved Ones: Let your family and close friends know that you’re okay so they can help spread the word. Text messages or social media are more reliable forms of communication than phone calls.
- Assess The Damage: After the threat for tornadoes has ended, check to see if your property has been damaged. When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Contact local authorities if you see power lines down. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers if your property has been damaged.
- Help your Neighbor: If you come across people that are injured and you are properly trained, provide first aid to victims if needed until emergency responders arrive.