Unprecedented warmth during this winter season fueled a devastating tornado outbreak across regions of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Arkansas in March. Subsequently, tornadoes claimed multiple lives and left at least 35 individuals injured in Iowa. The recent occurrence of twisters has even extended to areas unaccustomed to such events, exemplified by one striking near Los Angeles in 2023, resulting in torn rooftops and one injury.

In the face of an imminent tornado targeting your residence, with sirens blaring, dogs barking, and children in distress, last-minute precautions can prove pivotal in safeguarding the lives of you and your loved ones. However, experts also stress the importance of undertaking preparatory measures well before the tornado looms on the horizon. Here’s a breakdown of essential tornado safety tips:

Emergency Updates

Ensure access to weather radios, specialized receivers capable of receiving alerts and sounding alarms during emergencies. According to Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s forecast office in Norman, Oklahoma, these radios are indispensable life-saving devices, especially in regions like the South, where tornadoes frequently occur at night, catching people unaware while they sleep. The National Weather Service advocates for multiple warning methods, including weather radios, cellphone apps, or alternative means to mitigate the risk of missed alerts due to power outages.

Shelter Locations

Ideally, seek refuge in enclosed, underground shelters, basements, or above-ground safe rooms designed to withstand tornadic winds. However, in areas where basements are uncommon, like Oklahoma due to the expensive clay soil, alternative shelter options become necessary. If forced to remain above ground during a tornado, prioritize placing as many barriers, such as walls and sturdy items like mattresses or couch cushions, between you and the external environment. Contrary to popular belief, refrain from opening doors and windows to equalize pressure.

Home Safety Precautions

Recent studies suggest that closing garage doors and all interior doors during tornadoes or severe thunderstorms could mitigate wind damage by compartmentalizing the force. Dispel the misconception of opening doors and windows to equalize pressure, as it poses a safety risk. Prepare for post-tornado scenarios by dressing appropriately, wearing long pants and sturdy shoes, and assembling an emergency kit comprising essentials like drinking water and nonperishable food items.

Driving Safety

If caught driving during a tornado, options for seeking shelter are limited. Attempt to exit the road and find a sturdy building for refuge. In the absence of suitable shelter, there are no foolproof safe options. While ditches, overpasses, or remaining inside a vehicle have seen instances of survival, they also present risks, as evidenced by unpredictable outcomes, including fatalities and severe vehicle damage.

In light of the impending threat of strong tornadoes forecasted for Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, the National Weather Service emphasizes the importance of having emergency supplies, identifying safe havens, and establishing a family communication plan. Proactive preparation and swift action can significantly enhance resilience and mitigate risks during tornado emergencies.