Tornadoes can happen anywhere in the United States and they have the ability to destroy structures and cause great harm. Whether you live near a Pacific Coast beach or reside inland, it’s important to be prepared for severe weather. Learn these tornado safety tips to help keep your loved ones safe in the event a tornado warning or watch goes into effect near your home.
What Is a Tornado?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) classifies a tornado as a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm and comes into contact with the ground. Because we can’t see wind, a tornado won’t come into view unless it forms a condensation funnel consisting of water droplets, dust, and debris.
Meteorologists use the Fujita Scale to measure the intensity of a tornado. The weakest is an F-O. These have wind speeds that ranges from 40 to 72 miles per hour and usually only cause light damage. The strongest tornado is an F-5. With wind speeds clocking in at 261-318 miles per hour, these tornadoes can result in catastrophic damage to life and property.
Where Do Tornadoes Happen?
According to preliminary reports from NOAA, 1,154 tornadoes touched down in the United States in 2018. That’s not a small number by any means, and NOAA also reports that Louisiana (86), Iowa (84), Mississippi (68) and Illinois (64) experienced the most tornadoes last year, while California (6) had the most on the West Coast.
Tornado Safety Tips
- Know the difference between a tornado watch versus a tornado warning. A tornado watch signals the possibility of a tornado in and around your area. A tornado warning means weather radar has spotted one.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit. Gather items like fresh batteries, a battery-operated TV, radio or internet-enabled device, water, non-perishable food, and medication, and leave them in a place you can easily reach during an emergency. Use this helpful checklist to make sure you have everything you need.
- Designate a safe building for shelter. Come up with a plan for where your family should go during a tornado. Basements, storm cellars and interior rooms on the lowest floors are your best options.
- Find low-lying ground if you’re stuck outside. Look for a ditch or a flat area on the ground if no cover or shelter is available. Stay on the lookout for flash floods as they can sometimes accompany tornadoes.
- Get off the road if it’s possible. If you’re driving when a tornado warning goes into effect, getting to shelter should be your first priority. If none are available, pull over to the side of the road in a low-lying area away from trees and stay clear of bridges and highway overpasses.
- Be flexible. Tornados are unpredictable. A backup plan for where to go during a tornado provides added flexibility in the event you’re unable to get to your planned safe location.
- Stay informed. Listen to local news on the battery-powered radio or check for updates on your phone or television for information and instructions if you have power.
Staying safe during a tornado comes down to preparation and common sense. Follow these tornado safety tips to prevent harm to you or your family, and talk to a Mercury Agent to find out how a homeowner’s policy could protect your assets.