- Education and Science
Preparing For A Tornado Gathering Emergency Supplies For Severe Weather
Tornadoes are scary but if you are prepared you can keep your family and yourself safe.
I’ve lived in Oklahoma almost all of my life and have studied the way tornadoes work. When you live in tornado alley for several years you learn proper procedures and what supplies are necessary to keep safe.
Where do you go?
The best place, without a doubt is a storm shelter either below ground or a safe room. Keep these maintained especially during storm season and make sure they are free of debris or water.
Underground cellars tend to crack and leak when they get old and need to be pumped out and resealed or repaired so you want to make sure they are maintained especially right before storm season.
The next best thing is a basement.
A center room on the lowest level of your home without windows works well if you don't have a shelter or basement. Windows can break sending flying glass so you need to stay as far away from those as possible.
A hallway or center bathroom without windows will do.
If you are out driving get out of your car and get in a creek or river. The lowest spot you can find is the safest.
Do not get under an overpass or bridge. They used to tell us to do that but have since realized that isn't a good place.
In your designated storm area you need to have supplies in a cupboard or container nearby in case of emergency.
The most common injuries after a tornado are head trauma or concussion. Bicycle helmets are great for your kids to wear and even adults. If you don’t have those, a motorcycle or football helmet or other head protection will do. This isn’t a beauty contest; you are trying to stay safe. Make sure they are strapped on securely.
We used to hold pillows on our heads but tornadoes are like giant vacuum cleaners and can suck a pillow right out of your hands so unless you strap a pillow to your head it won’t do much good.
Candles and lighters or matches
During storms you will often lose power. Tornadoes are attracted to electricity and always seem to go for power sources. High winds knocks down power lines or trees that take out electric poles. Lightening strikes terminals and other sources.
There are many ways you can lose power so it’s best to be prepared before hand than to be feeling around in the dark for candles and matches.
Battery powered radio
With cell phones this may not be quite as important but it gives everyone something to do if nothing else while waiting out the storm.
Cell phones are sometimes overloaded and don't work as well during storms. I try to leave the lines clear so police, ambulances and other officials can use them in emergencies.
Find out ahead of time which radio station has the weather you feel the most comfortable taking advice from and keep it on that number or make a tiny mark with a paint pen so you can find it quickly in the event of severe weather.
There’s nothing worse than trying to scroll through all the stations looking for weather in the middle of an emergency.
Periodically, check your batteries to make sure they are working just like you do for your smoke alarm.
You do check your smoke alarm batteries, don’t you?
Don’t keep your batteries in the radio especially if you store it in a bathroom cupboard. The moisture can rust the batteries, they also get old and leak after a while and can ruin your radio.
Our local news channel provides a free map of the counties and city borders. This can come in handy when you are listening to the radio and trying to figure out if the storm is headed your way or moving out. If you can’t get a weather map at least have a state map in your supplies.
This is a worst case scenario but a good idea to make sure you have water especially if you are in an underground cellar. Sometimes debris traps doors and you might not get out for a day or two. I’ve witnessed a few really bad tornadoes and learned it’s best to be prepared just in case.
Replace bottles every so often. Water can go bad, algae and other organisms can grow in water so keep fresh bottles in your shelter.
Cell phones and identification
I always grab my purse before heading to safety. Most of my important information is in my bag as well as my phone. If your driver's license is on your person that is best.
Tornadoes are attracted to metal
They love vehicles and mobile homes. Have you ever wondered why trailer parks are always taken out by a tornado? It’s the metal. They will veer off course to hit a mobile home addition skipping over a wood house; I’ve seen it many times.
Naturally, they tear up wood homes too but trailer houses are in the most danger.
If you are in a vehicle or mobile home during a severe storm GET OUT OF THEM. You don’t have a chance if you are in the path of a tornado. Do not stay in a car, truck or trailer house. I’ve yet to see one survive if they are in a tornadoes path.
Metal is a tornado magnet.
Notify friends or family of location
It’s a good idea to let someone know where you are going to be when a storm is coming.
If you have a tornado shelter inside your garage make sure your neighbors and local law enforcement is aware of this. Flying debris or your roof can block the door making it impossible for you to get out safely. If people know you are down there that will be one of the first things they start clearing out.
If wouldn’t be a bad idea to let town or city officials know about a cellar in your backyard for the same reason. Sheds and downed trees can hamper your escape after the storm.
What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?
A tornado watch means that the conditions are ripe for a tornado, none has been sited yet but it is very probable that one will appear so you should be vigilant.
A tornado warning means a tornado has been sited and you should pay attention to weather reports to see if one is on its way to your area.
Tornadoes almost always start in the southwest and head northeast. They can go more north or more east but it usually heads in that general direction.
Tornadoes avoid a lot of concrete
They avoid big cities where there are a lot of tall buildings and concrete. During the May third tornado when we had an F6 it went by Tinker Air Force Base but missed most of it. The only thing damaged was the horse stables and golf course where there was a lot of dirt and vegetation.
Tornadoes prefer organic matter, metal and electricity.
I’m no scientist and not sure why they avoid concrete buildings but they do.