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Tornado Education For Children

Updated on April 19, 2012
The F-5 tornado that tore through my hometown
The F-5 tornado that tore through my hometown | Source

What is a Tornado?

A tornado is a dangerous, violently rotating column of air, which comes after a thunderstorm and is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud.

Personal Experience

July 18th, 1996 seemed like just another ordinary day in the life of a 5 year old. My little sister was upstair with dad and my older sister and I were doing the dishes. I was in the middle of rinsing off cups when it happened. My dad came flying down the stair with my little sister in hand and told us to get into the basement immediately! I had never seen my daddy act like this before so I climbed down from my chair and started down the basement stairs. I remember hearing my older sister ask my dad why over, and over again. My dad opened up the door just as the huge F-5 tornado was taking out the Friday Canning Company, “that’s why” he responded. That definitely gave us all a little kick in the butt and we ran down the stairs!

My dad got us all situated in the safest place in our basement and there we sat. My little sister was crying, worried for our mom. She had been 15 miles away, working at ShopKo. No matter how many times my dad tried to reassure her that mommy was okay and nowhere near the tornado, it never seemed to sink in for us.

Finally, after what seemed like years my dad said it was safe for us to go upstairs. First we looked out the back door and saw that our beloved swingset had crashed into our dogs kennel. And being the 5 year old that I was, I immediately thought to myself, “I hope our dogs are okay!” Thankfully Shadow and Midnight were safetly hidden in there dog house. We proceded to the kitchen, where I surprisingly noticed not a single dish or glass was outta place! Now how could something take out an entire building, yet not even break a single dish in my house? We counted 10 windows that had to be replaced and we were missing some clothes from the laundry pile my mom had left next to the living room window. (It was also noticed later, that some of my mothers library books were missing too.) Finally we reached the front door of the house and walked out to see a piece of our neighbors garage on top of our car. The damage all around looked terrible! I still couldn’t believe my eyes…the inside of our house still didn’t seem like it was that bad. Very soon after that we were met by my aunt, uncle, and cousins who lived a block away. I remember they had to climb over multiple trees just to get to us.

Remains of a house after being swept away by the powerful torndao.
Remains of a house after being swept away by the powerful torndao. | Source

This devistating tornado injured 17 people but killed none! There was an estimated damage of over $40 million, 47 homes were completely destroyed (4 homes actually being swept from their foundations), vehicles were thrown 400 feet, and millions of cans from the canning factory were found sprawled over a 50 mile radius. A state of emergency was declared by the Wisconsin governor, Tommy Thompson, which allowed the National Guard soldiers to be called in to aid the victims and to help clear debris. I can remember sitting in the back of a pick-up truck and driving around collecting hundreds of cans. As we drove around, I remember seeing the numerous amounts of houses, businesses and churches that suffered a great amount of damage. Yet, a beautiful stained glass window in our Lutheran Church was still completely intact!

It's still hard to believe that such a treacherous thing happened to a small town like mine, but if you were to look at a tornado table for Wisconsin you will see that there are only 12 confirmed tornadoes. And we are the only place that suffered from an F-5 tornado. It is said that they are so rare that there are only one F-5 tornado every two years. How were we so lucky to have been chosen?

Sometimes I find myself wondering…what if my father wasn’t there and it was just my older sister, my younger sister and I. Would we have known what to do? Would we have tried to run outside and save our dogs? The answers would probably be no we wouldn’t have know what to do and yes, I probably would have tried to save our dogs. This is one of the reasons why I think tornado education is so very important!

Just recently at my job at a daycare center, we had 2 tornado warnings in one day. I have worked at this place for 11 months and I can recall us doing at least 5 fire drills, yet not a single tornado drill! Needless to say, my kids had no idea what was going on or what to do. Some were scared and others were just messing around because they didn’t know the seriousness of what was going on. This is one of the main reason why I have decided to put together a few safety tips and what to tell your children.

Plan for a tornado:

  • Create a family disaster plan.

* Find out about the tornado risks for your state. Most severe tornadoes in the U.S. occur in “Tornado Alley.” This area includes Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texa, and Iowa. But don’t forget that tornadoes have happened in every state.

  • Pick a safe location in your home for everyone to gather.

* Remember that safest place during a tornado is underground or as low to the ground as possible. If you have a basement, this should be your safe place. If you don’t have a basement find a place on the lowest floor farthest from the outside. The more walls between you and the outside the better.

  • Show children how to protect themselves while in the safe place.

* Your head and neck are more easily injured so make sure you protect them. Have them put their heads down and put their arms and hands over their neck and head.

  • Tell your childen how your neighborhood is warned of an approaching tornado.

* Different neighboorhoods/communities have different warning systems. Most have some sort of siren that will go off but to be sure you can always use a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone alert.

  • Have periodic tornado drills to insure that everyone knows what they are doing.

* The more practice you have the better because that will give everyone the appropriate reaction time without having to think too much about what to do.

  • Check with your work and children's schools/daycare centers to learn their tornado plans.

* Every building has a different safety location, it is important to know where they are and to show your children where they are. (Jus incase the school/center doesn’t do drills.) Showing your children where they go for a tornado emergency is better than nothing.

  • Sit down and discuss tornadoes with your family.

* Everyone should know what to do if not all the family members are together. Letting children know that if a parent or another sibling is out of the house does not mean they are in danger. It is very important to establish this before you are in the situation to reduce the childrens fears.

  • Make sure your safe place has a “tornado supplies kit.”

* Some examples of what it can contain:

* First aid kit

* Battery powered radio

* Flashlight

* Extra batteries

* Bottled water

* Snacks (if you’re gonna have canned foods stored make sure you have a hand can opener stored with them)

* Candles and matches

* Credit cards or cash

* Blankets

* If you have an infant you may want to include diapers, wipes, formula, etc.

Don't forget, weather can change in an instant! And it's never too early to plan accordingly, especially when children are at risk.


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    • KJhusak profile image

      KJhusak 5 years ago from Akron

      Thank you so much ChristinS! Wow that is crazy! My town is super tiny so it tore through everything but our house didn't look to bad at all compared to neighbors. Glad nothing happened to you guys! That is awesome and I agree, kids need to know what's going on and they can know without having to frighten them.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 5 years ago from Midwest

      This is such a great hub! When I was young - 8 years old, a major tornado tore up and obliterated main street in our town overnight. We lived a block away if that and were not touched, but I was the only one who woke up during that storm! I tried to wake my mom and dad and because I was sick with chickenpox at the time they shut me up insisting I was only dreaming LOL. Imagine their shock when my grandma was calling on the phone 15 minutes later. Needless to say since that time I have always had a plan and I am very good about the kids and making sure they know what to do when there are severe storms in our area. We know to unplug and get the candles/flashlights and radio and where to head etc.

      I think you can definitely prepare kids without frightening them. They grow up feeling empowered and knowing just what to do. So important great hub voted up and shared.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 5 years ago from Mason City

      Your welcome, and thanks, too for a great hub. Tornado safety is very important. I live in Iowa and the weather can get pretty nasty at times. Storms are scary!

    • KJhusak profile image

      KJhusak 5 years ago from Akron

      Thank you gail641. I can't imagine not having sirens though, so glad you guys were okay!

      Thanks Shesabutterfly. I know children aren't really big on learning but most kids that I know love to read books. So I figured it might be helpful information!(:

    • Shesabutterfly profile image

      Cholee Clay 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      I like the addition of the children's books, very useful! Great hub and information.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 5 years ago from Mason City

      Great information on tornados. There was a F-5 tornado that hit the town of Charles City, Iowa back in 1968 (May) and it did a lot of damage and I don't know how many people died- but some did get killed. I lived in a smaller town called Elma, Iowa and the tornado hit there too, after hitting Charles City, Ia. Me, my older siser and brother watched from the kitchen window. There were no sirens then. We three were okay, though after it ended. Great hub.