With another winter storm dumping snow and ice across the southland this week it may seem a bit early to be thinking about tornado season, but the spring thaw is only a few weeks away and with it will come the storms of spring.
We’ve actually been pretty lucky the past three years, as tornado activity has run below average - but nothing guarantees that streak will continue.
During a three day period (Apr 25th-28th) of 2011 a storm system of epic proportions spawned 351 confirmed tornadoes across five southern states, killing 338 persons in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. This was the the third deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. History. More than a dozen of these twisters reached intensities of 4 or 5 on the Enhanced Fujita [EF] scale, which can produce near total devastation.
Before and after imagery depicting tornado damage in the vicinity of the intersection of 15th St. E. and McFarland Blvd. E. in southeast Tuscaloosa, AL. The before imagery is courtesy of Google, the after imagery was acquired from an altitude of 5,000 feet above ground level by the NOAA King Air April 29, 2011.
All but a small part of the United States is vulnerable to these storms, but the strongest generally occur in an area we call Tornado Alley (below Left), which runs from middle Texas north though Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
This is the area where you will generally find the largest and most powerful tornadoes; the F5 wedge type.
TORNADO ALLEY DIXIE ALLEY
Fortunately, much of the mid-west is sparsely populated, and so the number of tornado deaths that occur here are actually less than in other areas of the country.
DIXIE ALLEY (above right) sees more frequent, albeit usually less severe tornadoes. Due to a higher population density, more deaths occur in Dixie Alley than in Tornado Alley most years.
Which is why every home and office should have a NOAA weather radio. Once thought of as mainly a source of local weather information, it has now become an `All-Hazards' alert system as well.
No one can say with any confidence how many destructive storms 2015 will bring - but when it comes to tornados - you only have to be hit by one to ruin your whole day.
NOAA’s Are You Weather-Ready? Severe Weather Preparedness has a lot of good information, and three tornado specific videos.
Follow the link to read:
July 20, 2012 / 61(28);529-533
Individuals who work or live in a tornado-prone area should develop a tornado safety plan prior to severe weather.
During April 25–28, 2011, the third deadliest tornado disaster occurred in the southeastern U.S. despite modern advances in tornado forecasting, advanced warning times, and media coverage. CDC reviewed data from the American Red Cross, death certificates and the National Weather Service to describe the fatalities by demographic characteristics, shelter used, cause of death, and tornado severity in the affected states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. Of the 338 deaths, approximately one-third were older adults, almost half occurred in single-family homes, and a quarter happened in mobile homes. One-half of the 27 tornadoes were rated powerful (EF-4 or EF-5) and were responsible for almost 90 percent of the deaths. The use of safe rooms is crucial to preventing tornado-related deaths.
FEMA has a good deal of advice on exactly how to construct a safe room – either above or below ground.
The information below will help you understand how having a safe room in your home can protect your family and save the lives of those you care about.
Find answers to your Questions about Building a Safe Room, including:
- What is the cost of installing a safe room?
- Can I install a safe room in an existing home?
- Can I build the safe room myself?
- Where is the best location for the safe room?
- Where can I find plans for safe room construction?
Building a Safe Room in Your House
For more details about how you can build a safe room in your home, go to the FEMA P- 320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business page before downloading it from the FEMA Library.
Having a good (and well rehearsed) family emergency plan is essential for any emergency. Even with a safe room, family members could become separated (they may be sent to different hospitals or shelters) in the post-disaster chaos.
Some may be injured and unable to provide information about their families.
So it is important to set up a plan, including meeting places and out-of-state contacts, and individual wallet information cards - before you need it. To that end READY.GOV has some advice, and tools, to help you do just that.
(PDF - 3Mb)
Prepare yourself and your family for a disaster by making an emergency plan.
Download the Family Emergency Plan (FEP) (PDF - 750Kb), print the pages and fill them in offline.
Your emergency planning should also address the care of pets, aiding family members with access and functional needs and safely shutting off utilities.
You may also want to inquire about emergency plans at work, daycare and school. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Read more about school and workplace plans.
Once you’ve collected this important information, gather your family members and discuss the information to put in the plan. Practice your plan at least twice a year and update it according to any issues that arise.
Together with adequate emergency supplies, a solid first aid kit, and an emergency battery operated NWS Weather Radio, these steps will go a long ways to protecting you, and your family, from a wide variety of potential disasters.
Basic kit : NWS radio, First Aid Kit, Lanterns, Water & Food & cash
This weekend, when we `spring ahead’ into Daylight Savings Time, is the perfect time to take a good hard look at your emergency plans, and supplies, and make any adjustments necessary.
For more on all of this, a partial list of some of my preparedness blogs include: