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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Sep 23, 2020

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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