Those of you who are old enough to remember the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, will remember the feeling of terror Dorothy felt after discovering the ‘twister” had taken her far from her home in Kansas. Although the Land of Oz and Dorothy’s experiences there were pure imagination, the effects of a tornado can be devastatingly real.
Tornadoes, violent windstorms generally characterized by funnel-shaped clouds, usually come in thunderstorms from cumulonimbus clouds. The narrow end of the tornado touches the earth and is often encircled by a cloud of debris that it picks up as it moves along. Tornadoes normally rotate ounterclockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. Technically, for a vortex to be classified as a tornado, it must be in contact with both the ground and the cloud base.
A tornado is also commonly called a twister or dust devil, or is sometimes referred to as a cyclone. A tornado over water is defined simply as a waterspout. Occasionally a single storm will produce more than one tornado, either simultaneously or in succession and is referred to as a tornado family.
Tornadoes come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Typically they are approximately 250 -500 feet across with wind speeds between 40 mph (65 kph) and 110 mph (175 kph). Some tornadoes can reach wind speeds of more than 300 mph (480 kph) and stretch more than a mile (1.6 km) across. Tornadoes generally travel a few miles (kilometers) before dissipating. When they are dissipating, they often resemble narrow tubes or ropes and may curl or twist into complex shapes.
Tornadoes can have a wide range of colors - grey, white, black, red, blue, yellow, orange, pink, or nearly invisible - depending on the environment and time of day in which they form. Night-time tornadoes are often illuminated by frequent lightning. Sometimes tornadoes may be completely obscured by heavy rain, hail or dust. These tornadoes are especially dangerous because they are difficult to see.
Although tornadoes have occurred on every continent except Antarctica, most occur in southern Canada and the United States. They also play a significant role in parts of South America, Europe, Asia, Southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
Although tornadoes can strike with litte or no warning, there are precautions and preventative measures that can be taken to increase the chances of surviving a tornado. The same guidelines that appy for many other emergency situations also make sense when dealing with a tornado.
Consider the following guidelines when making a Tornado Emergency Plan:
• Safe exits from your home and neighbourhood (practice once a month)
• A meeting place to reunite with family or roommates
• A designated person to pick up your children should you be unavailable to do so (have a secret phrase so children know when someone other than parents has authority to pick them up)
• Contact persons close by and out-of-town (include name, address and phone number)
• Health information (including medications)
• Places for your pet to stay if you have to evacuate including vets, kennels, etc. (it is best to take them with you whenever possible)
• Common risks in your area
• Location of your fire extinguisher (know how to use it)
• Location of your water valve, electrical box, gas valve and floor drain (have an appropriate wrench nearby for easy access)
During a tornado:
• Stay calm and alert
• Listen to weather forecasts/warnings (use a crank radio – no batteries needed)
• Keep an easy to carry 72-hour emergency kit close at hand
• Go to the side or corner of a basement or an interior first-floor room opposite the tornado's direction of approach or a storm cellar if available (do not open windows)
• If driving in a vehicle, park far to the side of the road and find a sturdy shelter (stay away from underpasses as they increase the tunnel effect and can collapse on you)
• If no sturdy shelter is nearby, get low in a ditch away from your vehicle
• If you live in a mobile home seek shelter in a more secure building. If you cannot go to a safer place, go outside and lie down in a ditch or depression away from the mobile home and any vehicles
After a tornado:
• Check your property for damage and hazards
• Remove any debris that has collected
• Check drinking water for contamination - don’t drink it until you know it is safe
• Make any necessary revisions to your emergency plan to be better prepared the next time
By knowing your situation and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a tornado. Be Prepared – Before Disaster Strikes!
As the lead partner in a web store - SurvivalStreet.com - Lorrie has been involved in emergency preparedness for over 25 years.
Lorrie's motto: Be Prepared - Before Disaster Strikes! - is one she continually strives to live by. One of her main goals in life is to assist others in achieving the peace of mind that comes with being prepared