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Staying Safe during a Tornado
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
When tornadoes strike, they do so with little or no warning, which means that those in their path have almost no time to prepare. It is often said that by the time you hear the sound of a tornado, it is too late, and this assessment would be quite correct. It is, therefore, of utmost importance to be aware of rapidly changing weather conditions any time that tornado watches or warnings have been issued.
What are the Differences of a Watch vs. Warning?
To stay safe during a tornado, you should first know the difference between a tornado watch and a warning. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado and you should remain alert. A warning means that a tornado has been spotted on the ground and you should take cover immediately.
If conditions are right for a tornado to occur, look to the sky for several tell tale signs that one is imminent. Tornadoes may be preceded by a dark, greenish sky, large hail, and dark, low-lying clouds (which may be visibly rotating). Most tornado witnesses describe the sound of a tornado as being similar to a freight train, with a loud roar that is almost overwhelming.
So if the tornado is on the ground and bearing down on you; what can you do to save your life? If you are indoors and have a storm cellar or basement, take shelter there. If there is no shelter, find the innermost room in your home, preferably without windows, and remain there until the storm passes. If you are in a vehicle or a mobile home, these are considered extremely unsafe; leave and seek a more secure location to take cover. Do not try to outrun a tornado.
What if You are Outside during a Tornado?
If you are caught outside, out in the open, and there is no shelter immediately available, the key is to get as low as you can. Find a ditch or land depression to lie in and cover your head. Some people take cover under bridges or overpasses. This can be a deadly mistake. Under no circumstances should anyone try to outrun a twister, even if you are in a vehicle. Instead, the proper course is to abandon your vehicle and seek safe shelter.
You should also keep an eye out for flying debris. Tornadoes can pack winds of more than 250 mph, powerful enough to turn any object into an airborne missile. Anyone being struck by debris may be seriously hurt or even killed, yet another good argument in favor of finding adequate shelter.
Once the tornado has moved through, do not assume it is gone. Tornadoes can reform and drop back down several times if atmospheric conditions are right. Remain alert and aware of changing weather around you in the immediate aftermath of any twister.