The recent devastating tornadoes across the South led to the loss of hundreds of lives and left thousands homeless or injured. The tornadoes capped off a bout of wild weather, during which the National Weather Service reported more than 600 tornadoes in April alone, breaking a 36-year-old record. With another month or two of tornado season to go, it’s important to be familiar with the warning signs of tornadoes and prepare for such severe weather emergencies.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms and can strike with little or no warning, destroying entire neighborhoods in just minutes. A new tornado fact sheet (PDF) from APHA’s Get Ready campaign can help you learn what to look for and how to prepare. Here’s some tips to follow:
• Know the danger signs: A dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud — particularly one that is rotating; and a loud roar, similar to a freight train, are all possible signs of an impending twister.
• Be prepared: Know your community’s tornado warning system and make a plan with family members. Prepare your household by picking a room where people and pets can be safe. Ideally, the space should be in a basement, underground shelter or interior room with no windows. Have an emergency stockpile close by. You can create your own emergency kit by following the Get Ready campaign’s Emergency Preparedness Stockpile Checklist, available in English and Spanish.
• If you suspect a tornado is on its way, take action. At home, school or work, go to your designated shelter area. If you’re caught outdoors, immediately walk to a nearby building. It that’s not possible, get in your vehicle, fasten your seat belt and drive to the nearest shelter. If you see flying debris while driving, pull over and park. As a last resort, stay in your car with the seat belt fastened and lower your head below window level. If you’re outdoors without a car or a nearby building, lie flat in a ditch or low-lying section of land. Cover your head with your hands to protect from flying debris.
• Once it passes, stay safe. Check household members for injuries. Watch for debris, fallen electrical wires and damaged gas lines. Do not try to reenter damaged buildings and wash your hands regularly during clean up.
Tornadoes and severe weather emergencies can strike with little warning. Knowing the signs and being prepared may make all the difference to help you stay safe.
Visit http://www.redcross.org/, call 1-800-RED-CROSS, or text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a contribution to U.S. tornado victims.