It’s Tornado Time: 7 Tips For Staying Safe When Dark Skies Appear and Funnels Near
As the weather warms, and warm air meets cool air, the chance of tornadoes goes up. There was a time that my friends in the Los Angeles area would state that they never get tornadoes. But 2005 was a different year for them. With so many twisters hitting the City of Angels (26 in all), well, they can no longer pu pu the midwest because of tornadoes.
Tornadoes have shown their face all over the United States. So what can you do to remain safe, when one is coming your way. Here are a couple of tips:
1) You’re never safe in a mobile home. Get out and under the crawl space or a storm shelter. If you recall the Xenia, Ohio tornado that happened in 1974, the devastation that lay in the aftermath forever positioned me against living in a mobile home in tornado territory. The town looked like a box of matchsticks strewn out all over the place.
2) Don’t try to outrun a tornado. You’ll lose. The show, Storm Chasers, is quite popular because these guys (and gals) follow storms. The footage is awesome. Some of their shows are quite scary. I’m glad no one got hurt in any of the shows I’ve seen. But storms can behave in unpredictable fashions…and funnels systems can spawn more than one funnel cloud.
Then there is sheets of rain, torrential rains…serious electrical activity and hail. The hail can be baseball size and cause a lot of damage. So, pull off. Find shelter. Overpasses can work well, as long as they are not in a low area that water pools. Keep your lights on so people pulling behind you can see you (and not hit you).
3) Pay attention to tornado watch warnings. It could be coming your way. I recall one time in Omaha that a watch occurred just about at rush hour drive time. It was scary when they announced where exactly they saw the funnel cloud. I decided to stay at work longer until the danger blew by.
Another time, the tornado hit while I was at work at the Omaha VA. As it made it’s way from West Omaha to downtown, it actually came through the VA grounds. We were all moved into the center halls – this building was steel and brick – to minimize any potential danger from flying glass. We all were safe. But it was quite impressive to see mature trees pulled up by the roots, all over the VA property. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the road as it was coming through.
4) If you drive a high road clearance 4 wheel drive, be ware. You are in even more danger than cars. Yes, I know it may see weird that a heavier vehicle could be in more danger but because of the amount of road clearance your vehicle has, it is at a disadvantage against powerful gusts of wind; they tend to throw these trucks around much easier. You only need to drive in a high gust area to catch my drift.
5) If you see a green sky, seek shelter fast. Every time I’ve been in or too near a tornado, that eerie green sky occurred. And it was CALM at that time. So if you’ve been told one is coming and your step out to green sky calm, you’re not out of the woods.
6) If you’re home when a tornado is passing near, open a couple windows to equalize the pressure and head for the basement’s SW corner. That’s the area experts say is the safest. Get under a table, under the stairs on in your safe room pronto. In an apartment, you may seek a closet or hide in the bathroom if your apartment does not have a designated storm area (most don’t). The best option is to get to an interior section of the building that is the closest to the ground floor and away from windows. Unfortunately, many apartment buildings are not built with this in mind and the only option is a closet or bathroom as they are away from the windows (flying debris) and have small ceiling areas, which can protect you from structural collapse and debris.
7) If you’re caught out in the open, get low. Find a ditch or depression, something below ground level. This is the safest place for you to be.
I’ve lived in tornado country all my life. It’s easy to survive if you remember the rules of engagement and are prepared.
Tags: tornado safety
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I also found this by accident (looking for funnel examples to show my family, and coming across Warren’s beautiful LP tornado in image T-3). Some other advice needs to be corrected as well. Hooray for reviving posts that are 3 years old 🙂
1) Overpasses are bad, never hide under them from tornadoes. Try not to hide under them when it’s hailing – you just cause congestion and accidents. 1″ hail and smaller probably won’t even dent your car, and that’s what insurance is for anyways.
2. You don’t need to equalize pressure by opening windows. That doesn’t even make sense. Is your house vacuum-sealed? Probably not. Will pressure drop more than 3-4 millibars for several seconds while a tornado is over your house? Probably not.
3. Green sky just means lots of water vapor in the air – typically heavy rain and large hail hitting the sunlight just right. I’ve seen many tornadoes, and only two have had green skies. It’s still a good idea to take cover when you see a green sky, because chances are you’re about to be in a nasty storm.
4. There is no ‘safest’ corner in a house. Get as far underground as you can, as far from exterior walls, and windows as you can. Bathrooms aren’t a bad choice.
5. Pay attention to Tornado *Watches* because they mean conditions are likely for tornadic storms at some point in the near future. Take cover for Tornado *Warnings* because that means there is good evidence that a tornado is already on the ground or will be shortly.
6. Your car won’t be pushed or flipped off the road by winds until you’re basically already in a tornado with 100+ mph winds. It is important to note that strong winds will require you to pay more attention and correct your steering the higher your vehicle is off the ground and the broader its side is.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
I’ll take your pointers to heart as I’ve always lived in tornado country.
Except that bridges and overpasses are really NOT safe places to stop and seek shelter during a tornado. The force of the wind increases — by a lot — when passing through small spaces and openings, and it would be the equivalent of seeking shelter in a wind tunnel.
Also, wasting time to open windows? It always blows my mind when I find someone who still believes in this myth. Open windows do nothing except take up the precious little time you have to gather your family and take shelter. For one thing, even if it were a question of air pressure causing walls and ceilings to collapse, there are enough spaces and openings in your average house/apartment/what have you to equalize the pressure without opening windows. Cracks under and around doors and windows, not to mention chimneys and other things are sufficient.
However, it’s been stated that pressure is not the culprit when it comes to houses being torn apart. It is quite literally the wind itself, pushing on the walls and causing them to blow in and collapse, and peeling the roof off of the house. And this is completely barring the presence of any large debris that may be flying around and end up getting tossed into the house through a wall or window.
And while it is noted and accepted that a green sky is never a good sign weather-wise, it should also be noted that not every case of severe weather is preceded by a green sky. So really, don’t be fooled by a calm sky period, no matter what the color may be.
I’ve noted the date on this entry, and I realize it’s old. I can only hope that the author has learned which of these is actually good advice and which ones are completely ridiculous. This comment is being posted with the following logic in mind: if I found this article, so can other people. I can only hope people are making the effort to overcome silly myths and superstitions.