www.whyville.net Aug 2, 2015 Weekly Issue

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Tornadoes and Tornado Safety

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It's safe to say that most people are familiar with the idea of tornadoes, though not everyone has personally experienced one of these destructive natural disasters, nor are they well-prepared if one were to occur. While not all tornadoes cause a lot of harm or fatalities, every now and again there will be a big one that devastates a community with long-lasting damages. As it is currently tornado season, it is important that we all familiarize ourselves with some tornado safety tips.

Tornadoes are most common in summer months, though they can occur at any time of the year with the right climate. Most tornadoes touch down between 3pm and 9pm and last only a couple of minutes. Tornadoes often have wind speeds of less than 100mph, but in extreme cases the wind speed can near 300mph, which is 5 times faster than the average car drives on the highway. On average, the United States experiences 1200 tornadoes per year with the majority of them being reported in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Florida.

The first thing that everyone should be familiar with is the warning signs that a tornado might be on its way. When there is a large storm, you should always make sure to keep an eye on your local weather station. Similarly, following local storm chasers on social media platforms is another method that can be helpful, as they generally have a good idea of when and where a tornado may occur. The sky is also a good indicator of whether or not a tornado is approaching. When a tornado is on its way, the storm clouds might start to lower and create what is known as a "wall cloud" because it looks like a large wall of clouds. Changes in wind patterns are also another sign. The weather outside may be very calm and then suddenly change to high winds, or intense winds may suddenly switch to a calm breeze. Finally, many people have reported that tornadoes sound similar to a train, or to a very loud waterfall. Hearing any sort of unusual sound like that during a storm is a good sign that you need to take shelter.

If you know that a tornado is approaching, then it's important for you to know where to take shelter. You should get to the lowest level of the building that you're in. A basement would be ideal. Avoid all windows and get yourself underneath something heavy. Try to stay in the middle room of a floor and in a bathroom if possible as the pipes act as an extra barrier. Put something heavy, such as a sleeping bag, over your head to protect yourself from any sort of flying debris. Stairwells in apartment buildings or in other public buildings are also good options. If you are in a car, try to drive out of the way of the tornado and find shelter. Make sure to keep your seat belt on and protect your head with a coat or sweater. If you are out in the open, stay away from trees or cars and lay flat on your stomach with your hands over your head.

Once a tornado has passed and the skies have cleared up, the first thing you should do is make sure everyone is all right. Listen to the radio or the TV for any updates on the situation. If someone is in need of assistance, then you should call the correct emergency services to help that person. You should steer clear of puddles or bodies of water as power lines may have fallen in them, which may still be carrying electricity. Be wary that damaged buildings could collapse at any time and that there may be sharp debris on the ground. Finally, avoid using matches or lighters after a tornado in case there were any gas leaks.

The summer months often bring warm weather and sunshine, but it's important for us to know what to do if a tornado strikes. These tips should ensure that you are able to keep yourself and others safe in case of an emergency, and might even save a life!


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