One of the deadliest types of natural disasters you can face is a tornado. As events in Oklahoma illustrate all too well, powerful tornadoes have the ability to destroy everything in their path. Entire neighborhoods can be wiped out in a matter of seconds by winds that reach speeds of up to 300 miles per hour. If you live in an area that has any degree of risk for tornadoes, it is important to be aware of the warning signs and know what to do to survive.
While tornadoes can sometimes strike with hardly any advance warning, there are generally several indicators that can help warn of a tornado threat. Oftentimes, tornadoes occur on the edge of a thunderstorm. One of the most common warning signs of a tornado is a dark and often green-colored sky. Rotating dark, low-lying clouds and hail are also indicators. Sometimes, a tornado funnel is not fully visible, but a cloud of debris at ground level shows its location. In a severe storm situations, it is also important to be listening to a reliable news source that can provide advance warning of a tornado threat. When these conditions exist, it is vital that you begin to take shelter as quickly as possible.
If you are in your own home when a tornado strikes, go to the lowest level of the building (preferably a basement or cellar area). Get as far away from the windows and edges of the house as you can by going to an interior room, putting as many walls between yourself and the outside as you can. Take shelter under a strong table or another piece of furniture and cover your head and neck.
If you are outside and not close to shelter, you should get into a car and drive to the closest safe building (be sure to buckle up, too). You need to be especially careful about flying debris from the tornado. If your car is hit, park on the side of the road and stay in the car. Don’t park under a bridge or overpass. Cover your head and neck and duck down below the windows. If there is ground nearby that is lower than the road level, leave the car and lie down there while still protecting your head and neck.
Even after a tornado has passed, you still need to be extremely careful. Don’t enter damaged buildings or walk among debris if you can avoid it. Be especially careful to avoid damaged power or gas lines, and don’t try using any utilities that could be at risk. Check family members for injuries, and if you are trapped under debris, do all you can to get the attention of rescue workers. Do not stay in your home if it appears to be structurally at-risk. Keep listening to the news on a battery-operated radio for updated emergency information, and wear sturdy, protective clothing and shoes. Cooperate with local authorities and safety officials.
Practice and plan what to do with family members so everyone will be prepared for a tornado. Preparing now will help you get through any emergency.