Today is Day 3 of Severe Weather Awareness Week for our area. Today I am going to talk about tornadoes.
A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air that is in contact
with a cloud base and in contact with the ground. Tornadoes come in various
sizes and intensity. They can be on the ground anywhere from seconds to hours.
Mississippi sees its fair share of tornadoes each year. They can occur in any
month, but we normally see a peak in the spring months and a secondary peak in
the fall. Tornadoes can occur during any time of day or night. It is at night
when even weak tornadoes can be very dangerous as most people are asleep. It is
because of this WLBT has been a leader in promoting NOAA Weather radios over the
past few years. A weather radio is perhaps the quickest way for you to get
tornado warnings as the alarm on the radio sounds as soon as the button is hit
at the National Weather Service. It is then you may be able to turn you TV to
WLBT or log on to wlbt.com for live coverage of bad storms. I will talk more
about weather radios on Friday.
Often times we think of tornadoes occurring out in the Plains in states like
Kansas and Oklahoma. Mississippi gets its fair share of tornadoes. In 2009,
Mississippi had a total of 45 tornadoes. In 2008 there were 109 tornadoes in
Mississippi. Thankfully the vast majority of tornadoes are weak, but as I
mentioned above, even weak tornadoes can cause damage and injuries, especially at
Tornadoes are rated based on the damage they cause using the Enhanced Fujita
Scale. Here is that scale:
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK is the NOAA agency responsible for
issuing Tornado Watches. They also issue Severe Thunderstorm Watches. A Tornado
Watch means that weather conditions are favorable for the development of
tornadoes and other severe thunderstorms that could produce large hail and
damaging straight-line winds. A Tornado Watch often covers a large geographical
area and remains in effect for up to 8 hours, sometimes longer.
A Tornado Watch means that you should be aware of rapidly changing weather
conditions. This is the time when you should review your action plans and keep
in touch with your friends and family to make sure they are aware of the weather
situation. This is also when you may want to bring outdoor pets inside.
Local National Weather Service forecast offices are responsible for issuing
Tornado Warnings (along with severe thunderstorm warnings). A Tornado Warning
means that a tornado has been sighted by a trained spotter or perhaps members of
law enforcement or emergency management. A Tornado warning may also be issued
when rotation is detected by Doppler Radar. A tornado warning is normally issued
for parts of a county or parts of several counties that are in the path of the
storm. When a tornado warning is issued for your area, this is the time when you
need to action to save your life. Keep in mind that a tornado can occur even
with no warning or watch in effect.
An easy set or tornado rules you can remember and apply to just about any
situation is called DUCK. I teach this to school kids all across the state. DUCK
is an acronym.
D - Downstairs
U - Underneath Something
C - Center of Home or Building
K - Keep Away from Windows
To explain further, you want to be on the lowest level of your home, school,
work place, etc. You want to be under something, like a work bench, as this will
help protect your body in the event debris is flying or the roof of the building
you are in collapses You want to put as many walls between you and the outside.
This is because this will put you in a more sturdy part of the building.
Finally, you want to stay away from windows as strong winds, hail and flaying
debris can break windows. You DO NOT want to waste time trying to open your windows. This used to be what people were told to do because it was thought opening your windows would help equalize the pressure. Again, doing this just waste time and is of no value.
Some other things you can do is to wear a bike or
football helmet. This will protect your head. You can even put on a heavy
winter coat to give your body extra cushioning Some of these safety rules may
sound a little crazy, but it is all about trying to protect your body from flying
debris when it comes to tornadoes. A lot of people have a fear of being sucked
into tornadoes. While a tornado can certainly pick you up, the biggest danger is
from flying debris.
A mobile home can be a death trap during a tornado. If you live in one, you MUST
have a place to go to during severe weather. If you live in anything but the
bottom floor of an apartment, you will want to make friends with your downstairs
neighbors as that will be the place to be during strong winds and tornadoes.
Of course, sometime you may be out on the road when severe weather strikes. If
this is the case, the first thing you want to do is try to seek shelter in a
sturdy building. People have been known to survive tornadoes in some strange
places like bank vaults. If you can't find a sturdy building, look for a ditch
safely away from the road. You can crouch down in the ditch and that will help
give you a little shelter. Having said that, you must be careful and alert while
doing this, as some of these storms can drop a lot of water in a short period of
time. I don't want to see you getting hurt or killed due to flash flooding, so
One other option, which I only recommend as a last resort, is trying to drive
away from the tornado. In order to do this, you will need to drive at a 90°
angle away from the tornado. This can be hard to do as many people can easily
get confused with their directions, or there may not be a road, and there may
just not be enough time to do this. Also, tornadoes can change directions or
increase in speed without warning. You DO NOT want to try to out run a tornado. I also DO NOT recommend staying in your car or seeking shelter under an overpass.
Some of the ideas I've given above are worse case situations and hopefully you are never put in that position. Sometimes what you end up doing to protect yourself is the best "worse" solution. This is why it is just simply important to keep updated on the weather and alter your plans when severe storms are forecast.
I will talk about lightning on Thursday.
Eric - firstname.lastname@example.org