Weather Safety: Seeking Shelter From A Tornado

This article discusses what people should do when a tornado warning is issued for their area.

In the movie "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy is caught out in a tornado. She tries to get in the cellar, but the door will not come open. She runs for the house, lies on her bed, and is hit by a flying windowpane. While fanciful, this is a good illustration of what one should never do when seeking shelter from a tornado.

While most common in the Midwest and Southeast, tornadoes can occur anywhere. They can strike with little or no warning, leaving destruction in their wake. The hard fact is: the only truly safe refuge from a tornado is underground. A storm cellar or underground room is the only place that provides complete protection from the storm. However, those who do not have storm shelters can still take measures to protect themselves from a tornado.

The first thing to remember is to listen to the weather broadcasts when the weather gets stormy. Every home in a tornado-prone area should have a weather radio that will sound when the homeowner's county goes under a tornado warning.

Radios are far superior to sirens, since howling wind can carry the sound of a siren away from a home. Also, even a deep sleeper will wake up when the weather radio sounds. They are loud.

If a tornado warning is issued for your county, and the weather looks threatening, try not to panic. Don't waste time opening windows. It doesn't help and may cause more debris to blow in. More people are killed from flying debris in a tornado than by anything else. Stay away from windows and doors. If in a home, go to the center of the home, on the lowest level. Winds are at their lowest velocity at ground level, and you want as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Bathrooms or hall closets with inside walls surrounding them are good choices. Try not to get in a room with an outside wall. Protect your head with a pillow or blanket and have a battery-powered radio so you can hear the all-clear being given for your area.

If you are in a mobile home, get out. Period. Mobile homes are death traps. If your mobile home park has a community shelter, go there. If not, get in a ditch and lie flat, protecting your head. You are safer in a ditch than in the mobile home.

Motorists should stay weather alert by keeping their car radios on when the weather looks bad. Pay attention to bulletins, and know the general movement of storms. If you see a funnel cloud, or a tornado warning is issued, try to get off the road and into a sturdy building. If this is not possible, hit the ditch.

Most shopping malls have protected shelter areas and will make announcements if the weather becomes threatening. Don't worry about your purchases "" if the order to get to the shelters is given, go. You don't want to be in a large building with lots of glass and an unsupported roof with a tornado lurking around. Get to safety.

Schools may have built-in shelters, or students may go into the hallways. In any case, students should never hesitate to follow their teachers' instructions about tornado safety.

Parents should also teach their children what to do in case a tornado warning is issued while they are working and the children are home alone. They should have drills to prepare for this situation.

No matter where you are, if a tornado warning is issued, take immediate cover. The most important things to remember are to find a place with interior walls or go underground and stay away from doors and windows.

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