Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Some Tornado Safety Tips From The NWS & Ready.gov

Granted, our tornado tendency around here is nowhere near as robust nor powerful as what our friends in the Plains, Midwest, and South deal with.  Going back to 1950, these are the F4 or EF4 tornadoes that have impacted anyone within a reasonable distance of this region.  You can tell the numbers are relatively rare...and there's been only one F5/EF5 that's even set down within PA soil -- in Western Pennsylvania on May 31st, 1985.  The closest last F4 occurred in Southern Maryland in 2001.

The strongest tornadoes we have experienced around here are EF3/F3 -- Berks County (1998), Limerick (1994) are two of the recent tornadoes that have reached such strength.  However, the vast majority of our tornado touchdowns in this part of the world are EF0 up to EF2 in intensity -- enough to cause damage and yes, enough to kill unsuspecting individuals.  However, the EF5 level twister such as the one that impacted Moore a couple of weeks ago has a very remotely low chance of occurring.

That said, the region does get a few tornado warnings and a few tornado events each year...and with a fair bit of attention being drawn towards Oklahoma in recent weeks due to the tornadoes that occurred and the various discussion points that are going around about how television is communicating how to deal with tornadoes should they be imminent, there are safety protocols from the NWS that are relatively wise and should be looked at.

Ready.gov also provides a clear set of "to do's" in case of severe weather.  Note that in the case of Ready.gov, the suggestion to drive or get away only applies to those who are either outside or are in a mobile home. It doesn't apply to those who are in their non-mobile home or those in an office building or structure with a bit more security in it.  Tornado warnings typically only have minutes of lead time between the actual warning being issued and impact so time is of the essence...getting out and driving away from the storm isn't a wise strategy.

If you are outside when severe weather does strike, find a sturdy shelter if at all possible. If not, do not drive in your car to try to outrun the storm. You know how traffic is around here -- you won't be getting too far without running into red lights, congestion, or some combination of the two. You can use your car as shelter (duck down low and put any cushions or pillows over your head) or get into a nearby ditch or low lying spot if one can be found.

The best thing to do regarding sheltering in place if you're in your non-mobile home by going to either your basement (if you have one) or an interior room on the lowest floor if a sturdy building...a room without windows. Often the half bathroom (powder room) or closest that squeezes under a stairwell is a great spot if your house is basement-less.

The key is to protect yourself -- and know what to do if you know severe weather is approaching.