The tragic deaths this past week, in the southern part of the United States, shows us just how powerful a tornado can be. The students in Enterprise, Alabama did what they were suppose to do. However for eight of them, it wasn’t good enough. Many people believe that no matter what precautions you take, it won’t be good enough. To some degree that is true. We can’t predict the outcome of being hit by a tornado. We can only prepare for it.
The National Weather Service has spent lots of time and money to advance the science of tornado detection. The best and most sophisticated equipment can only be used to warn us. They have not been able to prevent a tornado from striking. Along with the improvements of radar detection, comes the standard old advice of what to do as a tornado approaches.
Here are some helpful tips. First if you live in Tornado Alley, understand when the tornado season begins and ends. Pay attention to the weather forecast every day. Understand where the problem areas might be located for that particular day. Make sure you have the necessities available. Flashlights, extra batteries, a First aide kit, a fully charged cellular phone, a battery powered radio, blankets, bottles of water, ponchos, and dry clothing stored in a plastic garbage bag. I discourage candles and matches. They aren’t safe around broken gas lines.
The best place to take cover is in the southwest corner of the basement. Some people in the Midwest have tornado shelters underground. However, in many cities these don’t exist. If you are in a high-rise apartment, get to the lowest level quickly as possible. Don’t assume you can ride it out. If you are on the ground floor and have no basement or shelter, go to the southwest corner of the house and pull a table over you if possible. You can also go into an inner hallway or bath room. Use a closet to hunker into. If you are in the bathroom, get down inside the tub. If you can pull something over the tub quickly, do it. When you are in the hallway, sit with your back towards the wall and try to cover your head. A mother in New Orleans, during Katrina, put bike helmets on her children. Stay away from all windows and glass areas.
If you are in your automobile, get out and into the nearest and deepest ditch. Stay away from power lines, telephone poles, and trees. A few years ago, people climbed under a highway over pass for protection. Although this appeared safe at the time, it may not have been. However, it might be the only place of protection to use. No matter if you are inside or outside, always get into the “duck and cover” position.
Some communities have educated a few people to be tornado spotters. Spotters are trained and sent into the field when tornado’s are likely. The web site that can help detect tornado’s is www.nssl.noaa.gov/edu/safety/tornadoguide.html. Another site would be www.emsaonline.com/tornadowatchwarning.html .
Many schools and businesses practice tornado drills. It would be great if families practiced them at home. All families should have a plan. They should know where to go for help.
When a tornado does strike, there is a lot of confusion and chaos afterward. Precaution on rescue should be followed closely. In most cases, common sense still aides us with our best intentions. Cool heads and calm emotions are to our advantage after a strike.
I would like to dedicate this article to A.J. Jackson who gave his life to save a young girls life in the tornado that hit Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Alabama.