Though warning systems have improved in recent years, tornados can still occur with little to no notice across the world as long as the conditions are right for it. And, there really is no limit to where tornados can occur. The United States has the highest frequency of tornados compared to the rest of the world, with an average of 1200 tornados a year.
Many people believe that tornados only occur in the springtime through the middle of summer. In reality, however, tornados can occur any time of the year as long as the conditions are right. If warm and cool air masses come together, the probability of a tornado formation is exceptionally high. Further, most tornados occur between 3PM to 9PM, though they can happen at any time of the day.
What you need to know about tornados
As mentioned above, tornados can happen anywhere. Though tornados are more prevalent in some areas of the world and even some areas within the United States over others, everyone must be educated on how to stay safe and increase the chances of survival.
Here are some facts that everyone should know about tornados:
- Most tornados occur in May, followed by June, as this is when the unstable air and strong vertical winds are the most common. However, as climactic conditions have changed in recent years, it is becoming more commonplace for tornados to occur in March or April.
- The most common area in the United States that is subject to tornados is an area of the country referred to as Tornado Alley. This area is relatively flat and stretches from Texas to North Dakota. The dry polar air from Canada that meets with the warm and moist tropical air coming from the Gulf of Mexico creates the perfect conditions for a tornado to form and to hit.
- Tornados occur elsewhere in the world as well. They are very typical in the mid-latitudes that fall between 30 and 50 degrees north and south. The countries most susceptible to tornados aside from the United States include Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa, and many nations in Europe.
- Tornados commonly accompany hurricanes and other tropical storms once on land.
- Most twisters move in the direction of southwest to northeast. And, tornados can move in opposing directions for short durations of time as well. Also important to note is that tornados can even backtrack if hit by winds from the eye of a thunderstorm.
What you should never do in a tornado
If a tornado is approaching your home or where you are, you must be prepared and know what to do to increase your chances of survival. Consider this list of things that you should not do if a tornado is in your area.
- DON’T ignore tornado warnings – The warning systems are in place for a reason, and that is because tornados are not only exceptionally destructive, but they are also responsible for the loss of many lives. In the United States alone, tornados cause approximately 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries, each and every year. Though there are false tornado warnings quite frequently, this is because weather conditions can change with little notice. So, just as a tornado can form quickly, so can it dissipate. This said, if the sirens go off, action must be taken immediately. Be sure to take shelter in a storm shelter, or get home immediately and into a windowless room or your basement.
- DON’T take a peek out the window – Though it is understandable that you may be curious, and tornados can indeed be mesmerizing, you must avoid the temptation to run to the window to take a peek at the weather formation rushing your way. Tornados can easily cause broken windows and can result in glass and debris hurtling through the air right towards you. And statistically, getting hit by flying debris is the primary way that people lose their lives during a tornado.
- DON’T open your windows – Many people get confused and think that opening their windows will alter the pressure in their home and make it safer for them during the storm. However, it is a myth that opening a window will result in equalized pressurization. Opening your windows will result in nothing more than letting tornadic winds into your home. These winds can actually weaken your home and lessen your chances for protection and survival.
- DON’T try to outrun the tornado – In all seriousness, you will never be able to outrun a tornado, even with your car. Common instinct, however, will be to run the other direction when you see a tornado heading your way. Tornados have an average ground speed of ten to 20 miles per hour but can reach speeds of 300 miles per hour. Though you might be able to drive over 60 miles per hour in your vehicle, it is unlikely that you will be able to keep up that speed and maintain momentum in the right direction long enough to keep you safe. And, you definitely will not be able to drive 300 miles per hour. If you hear a tornado warning, you should head indoors to seek shelter. And, you should stay put until you have been notified, or are positive, that the storm has passed.
- DON’T hide under an overpass – As children and as young drivers, we were often given guidance that when severe weather approaches, that we should pull over and take shelter below a freeway overpass. While it is true that this can help protect your car from falling hail and debris, being under an overpass is actually not a great idea. The tornadic winds can work their way right below the overpass and are so strong that they can result in the structure falling apart. Further, vehicles can be lifted from the ground and slammed into the structure, creating a worse situation.
How to stay safe in a tornado
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of safety when it comes to tornados. These spinning wind storms can create damage by way of a path in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles in length. Adults need to take steps to be as best prepared as possible.
The best thing you can do when it comes to tornado safety is to be prepared. Make sure to have the following items on hand:
- A battery-operated radio or television, or an internet-enabled device that you can use to listen to the most up to date weather forecasts and ongoing information. If these devices require batteries, it is important to have extra batteries on hand too.
- A family emergency plan specific to tornado-related activities. Make sure your plan includes the location of the safest place in your home and how to get there.
- An emergency kit that includes a moderate supply of water, non-perishable food, and any necessary prescription medications
- A list of critical information including important telephone numbers and insurance information
Parents should also make sure that their children are properly educated about tornados and that they also understand the differences between a tornado watch compared to a tornado warning. A tornado watch is when the circumstances are right for a tornado to form and take shape. On the other hand, a tornado warning means that a twister has been spotted or has been picked up on radar. A watch is all about awareness and keeping your eyes on the weather. But in the case of a warning, it means it is time to prepare to take shelter. In addition to helping children understand the differences here, parents should help them understand how to take shelter and the safest place that they can be.
To this end, adults should be keeping an eye on weather conditions. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, it is a great idea to stay tuned into the weather whether it be on the television or a weather radio. There are also a variety of smartphone applications that can be used to help you stay up to date on the weather in your area.
As tornados can occur with little to no warning, be on the lookout for a dark sky that has a green color to it, large hail, a sizeable, dark, low-lying cloud, or a roaring thunder that that sounds like a freight train hurtling towards you. When these conditions are identified, head for shelter.
Finally, identifying the safest place to take shelter is also important. As mentioned, flying debris is responsible for a significant number of tornado-related deaths and injuries. For this reason and others, though there is no perfect place that can guarantee your safety, there are definitely some places that will be safer for you than others.
If you have one, your basement is usually a smart choice but another option is an interior room that does not have windows. Ideally, this room will be located on the lowest floor of your home and could include a laundry room, a bathroom, a closet, or the central hallway. Whenever you can, windowed rooms must be avoided. And for further protection, if there is a heavy table or workbench in the room, these can be used as an overhead shelter. And even better, cover your body with a mattress or a thick blanket, as this will help protect you from the aforementioned debris. Finally, if you live in a mobile home, you should take shelter elsewhere. Many mobile home communities offer a central location that residents can go for shelter. Make sure you know where that location is and how much time it takes to travel there from your home.
Tornados are known to last for a wide range of time, with some lasting just a short burst of a few seconds to others spinning away for more than an hour. And unfortunately, there has been little record-keeping done on the length of tornados prior to the early to mid 1900s, and thus it is unknown how long the longest tornado has been. This said, most tornados last for under 10 minutes. It is best to keep this in mind when determining the safest time to vacate your tornado shelter.
Preparation in advance of tornados will increase the likelihood of survival
Those who take the time to educate themselves on tornados and on the conditions that are required for a tornado to form will set themselves apart from those that do not. With any type of major storm, taking the time to understand what you are looking for, what can transpire, and what you can and should do, will likely be the difference between life and death.
If you’ve got home damage as a result of a tornado and you’re displaced because of it, reach out to Bulldog Adjusters to find out how we can help you handle the hassle of your home insurance company. Here at Bulldog Adjusters, we work our hardest to make sure that you get the largest possible settlement from your insurance company!