So, the weather alert loudly rings out a warning on your cellphone. You look at it, and lay your phone back down as you have done many times before. Perhaps you have never experienced a tornado or a severe thunderstorm carrying high winds and pounding rains. Then count yourself lucky! Many people have, and some are taken by surprise just as I was the night that I rode out a tornado in a second story apartment. Terrified is an understatement of the fear that I felt listening to the sound of that freight train getting closer and closer to my apartment building. Fortunately, I survived, but many do not.
Tornadoes are visible in a “condensation funnel” containing dust and debris and come in different sizes and shapes. Most have winds of less than 110 miles per hour, but the largest tornadoes can have winds up to 300 miles per hour, can measure 2 miles in diameter, and travel very long distances reaping destruction and devastation. Tornadoes are formed from cumulonimbus clouds which are dense, vertical clouds formed by water vapor. These clouds are known as “thunderheads”. It is interesting to note that tornadoes rotate in a counterclockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere and in a clockwise direction in the South. Tornadoes are oftentimes referred to as “twisters”. The vortex is the rotating, spiraling center of the tornado or the “funnel”. In order to be classified as a tornado, the funnel must touch the ground. Most tornadoes occur during strong thunderstorms called “super cell” storms.
Tornadoes are highly dangerous, especially to anyone in a car or a mobile home and approximately 60 people are killed each year by these violently spinning funnels of wind. A tornado is extremely destructive, destroying anything that gets in its path. It can destroy homes and property, leaving people homeless. Tornadoes are rated on an “Enhanced Fujita scale” from EFO (least destructive) to an EF5 (highly destructive). The middle part of the United States is aptly named “Tornado Alley” because of the number of tornadoes that occur there. Since three-fourths of the world’s tornadoes occur in the United States, Americans need to be prepared for these super storms.
Safety involves being prepared and having a plan ahead of time. Decide where you will go to seek shelter should you be caught in a super cell storm. According to the the American Red Cross, a tornado “watch” means a tornado is possible, and a tornado “warning” means there is a tornado already occuring or will occur shortly in your area. Therefore, you are to seek shelter immediately! Be sure you have an emergency kit, and a plan as to where you and your family will meet during a severe storm. Go to the lowest floor in your house, a basement or first floor interior room. Stay away from windows and cover yourself with blankets or a mattress. During the storm season of 2019, tornadic storms cost $7.1 billion in damage and claimed 41 lives. Stay ready to act quickly should this happen to you and your family. Don’t become a statistic!