Tornadoes are violent storms with rotating winds that can level buildings and turn trees and cars into projectiles. The storm’s center is a swirling vortex that can vacuum up everything in its path, tossing the debris back down to earth miles away. They form at the base of thunderstorms and are categorized on the Fujita Scale with ratings between F0 (weakest) to F5 (strongest.) Although more prevalent in the Midwest, tornadoes have occurred in all fifty of the Unites States.
Through modern technology, meteorologists have been able to more accurately predict when tornadoes will form, allowing communities and news broadcasts to send out alerts and warnings that can save lives. Thunderstorm and severe weather warnings are issued first and if conditions are favorable for tornado formation, meteorologist will issue a Tornado Watch. A watch means a tornado is possible in and around the watch area. When a tornado watch has been issued, make sure you have the following items on hand and at the ready:
- Portable Radio
- First Aid Kit
- Water bottles
- Appropriate shoes and/or outdoor clothing
- Fully charged cell phone
- Blankets, a mattress, or some type of headgear like a helmet to protect your fragile skull.
Once a watch has been issued, keep a close eye on the weather and turn on local TV or radio and stay alert for warnings.
If a Tornado Warning is issued, then it’s time to seek shelter immediately. A warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar and the area is in imminent danger. If you have a basement or underground shelter, grab your supplies and go there immediately. If you don’t have a basement or storm cellar, seek shelter in an interior room, closet, hallway or bathroom, hunker down, and protect your head and any children who are with you. If you are caught outdoors during a tornado, seek shelter in any sturdy building or lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees, cars, and power lines as you can and pray.
I’m fortunate enough to live near a Public Safety building that still utilizes sirens. When the sirens sound, we turn the TV on to our local weather station and keep an eye on the weather. I also have a basement and although I’ve never found it necessary to go down there when the sirens blare, I’m always prepared to do so if necessary.
Before a tornado forms, there are usually warning sign. Violent thunderstorms with strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base can form a tornado, but not all tornadoes have funnels, so watch the skies and turn on the weather. Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or sudden intense wind shifts can be a prelude to a tornado as well. At night, if you hear a continuous roar or rumble that sounds like distant thunder but doesn’t fade away, it might be time to turn on the local weather or take a look outside. Some have said a tornado sounds like a freight train, so if you don’t live near the tracks and hear a train, seek shelter.
In the event that a tornado does touch down in your area, stay alert, stay focused, and try to stay calm. Take all necessary precautions to protect lives and seek shelter immediately. Don’t ignore Tornado Warnings or sirens!
The best place to be in a tornado is in an underground shelter or the lowest level of a sturdy building without windows. Many of the survivors of the massive F5 storm that hit Oklahoma this past Monday hunkered down in bathtubs and pulled mattresses over their heads. The tornadoes that ripped through the area caused millions of dollars in damage, killed more than fifty people at last count, and decimated Moore, Oklahoma.
We’ve all seen the images of this tragedy and they are heart wrenching. The nearly two-mile wide tornado cut a destructive path across the Midwest, destroying lives and property. The sixteen-minute warning, issued by National Weather Service, gave people enough time to seek shelter, but not enough time to get to their children, many of whom were still at school.
Those who survived may feel guilt for living when others died and many lost everything. Besides living through the aftermath of the storm, they now have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and move forward from scratch.
Over the next few years, the towns will be rebuilt and life will go on, but those who lived through the disaster will never forget.
In the face of tragedy, Americans have always come together to help those in need. And those in Oklahoma desperately need our help. The loss of life and devastation were unimaginable. The town of Moore looks like a war zone and the streets are gone, making navigation and recovery efforts difficult. But there are ways to help.
The Red Cross has set up shelters in various communities and people can donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund. The organization also suggests giving blood at your local hospital or blood bank.
If you want to send a $10 donation to the Disaster Relief fund via text message, you can do so by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. Mobile donations will show up on your wireless bill or be deducted from your balance if you have a prepaid phone.
The United Way of Central Oklahoma has also established the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to help with long-term medical, emotional and educational needs of victims of the tornado. Donations can be made online at UnitedWayOKC.org.
The Salvation Army is organizing disaster response units. To donate online go to SalvationArmyUSA.org or text the word STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation via cellphone.