UPDATED: Oct 19, 2019
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Tornadoes are dangerous natural disasters that can occur almost anywhere and can occur at almost any time of year, although they are more frequent during tornado season. They can happen quickly and without warning, so it is essential to be prepared for a tornado just like any other natural disaster. Even in areas that are not impacted by them, having a plan in place for if a tornado strikes can make a huge difference for the safety of your home and family. It is important to understand and prepare for these natural disasters as well as the aftermath.
Types of Tornadoes
There are several types of tornadoes, and each has its own causes and profile. Tornadoes come from one of two types of thunderstorms, supercell and non-supercell storms. Supercell tornadoes are the most common, but are also the most dangerous, and consist of a rotating under draft that creates a tornado. Non-supercell tornadoes are less common and form from air that is already spinning. These storms are usually less severe and are not usually part of a storm system. There are also gustnadoes, waterspouts (tornadoes that occur over water), and landspouts, all of which are less severe than the supercell tornado.
- NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory: Types of tornadoes
- Missouri Storm Aware: Tornado facts and history
Tornado Intensity Scale
Tornadoes are rated on an intensity scale, similar to the way hurricanes are rated and classified. It’s almost impossible to measure the actual wind speed of hurricanes, as they can spring up quickly and, unlike hurricanes, it is hard to predict when and where they will strike or how fast winds will be. The scale for measuring tornadoes is called the Fujita scale and dates to 1971. In its modern form, the scale ranges from least severe at EF-0 to most severe at EF-5.
- The Weather Channel: The enhanced Fujita scale: how tornadoes are rated
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Enhanced Fujita tornado intensity scale
Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning
When a tornado occurs or has a chance of occurring, alerts are often issued. A tornado watch simply means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to occur. At this stage, a tornado has not actually formed or been sighted. This type of warning should not be ignored, however, as it means a tornado easily could happen.
A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted and is in the process of happening. These are emergency warnings and mean action should be taken to get to safety immediately.
Preparing for Tornadoes
Tornadoes may not often happen in certain areas, but everyone should be prepared for tornadoes and other natural disasters. Tornadoes can be very dangerous, so you should make sure that your home is sound, that you have at least one room with no windows, have plenty of bottled water on hand in a safe place, and have an emergency plan and supplies for the family, including pets and children.
- FEMA: How to prepare for a tornado
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preparing for a tornado
Protecting Your Family
During a tornado, it is important to keep your family safe. This starts with preparedness before an emergency, such as knowing the differences in tornado alerts and finding a safe place in your home in case of a tornado. Having an emergency plan and knowing where to go are crucial. If a tornado strikes, having a plan in place can save precious moments. After a tornado, you should make sure family knows you are safe and continue listening to alerts in case there is more news.
- American Red Cross: Tornado safety tips
- Florida Department of Health in Brevard County: Tornado safety tips
Protecting Your Pets
Your pets are part of your family, and it is important to protect them during a tornado as well. Pets can get scared by storms, so it is important to make sure that they are microchipped and have identification on their collars. Pets should also be considered when planning for water and food needs during and after an emergency. You should also arrange a place for your pets to go in case something happens to you or your home, and you should have an emergency sticker on your home so emergency workers know to evacuate your pet.
- ASPCA: Disaster preparedness
- American Animal Hospital Association: Caring for pets during emergencies
- S. Food and Drug Administration: Take care of your pets before disaster strikes
Protecting Your Home
If a tornado occurs, it is important to protect your home. Since it is hard to predict when a tornado is going to happen, being prepared is crucial. Unlike with a hurricane, it is hard to prepare just before the event, so making sure that your home is as safe as possible is a great way to get ready in the event of a tornado. Fortifying your doors, windows, and your roof are good ideas. If you are building, it is a great idea to check out ways to make your home safer with concrete walls.
- Popular Mechanics: How to protect your home against tornadoes and hurricanes
- NPR: How to survive a tornado: plan ahead, avoid debris
What to Do During a Tornado
If you find yourself in a tornado, it is essential to know what to do. You should find an interior room away from any windows and stay as low to the ground as possible. A basement is ideal, but a first floor is acceptable if a basement is not available. Do not try to flee the tornado, as they can move very fast. Your home may be the safest place. Remain calm and know you have prepared properly!
- United States Department of Labor: Tornado preparedness and response
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: Tornado safety tips
What to Do After a Tornado
After a tornado, the first thing to do is make sure you, your family, and any pets are safe and that your home is not in immediate danger. After that, it is important to make sure that you have adequate supplies until all services are restored and that there are no dangerous power or flooding situations. Finally, it is always a good idea to let everyone know you are safe.
- Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness: Tornado facts and safety tips
- National Geographic: Tornadoes
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