Tips for weather preparedness—tornadoes

A tornado funnel cloudMarch 4, 2013 -- Just one year ago, a severe storm produced a tornado that traveled through Cabarrus County. The anniversary is a reminder of the importance of preparedness. March 3-9 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in North Carolina—a great time to practice what you and your family will do in cases of severe weather and tornadoes. This week, we’ll give residents tips from the National Weather Service, FEMA and other agencies on what to do in times of severe weather.

According to the National Weather Service, last year North Carolina:

  • issued 60 tornado warning
  • recorded 21 tornadoes that resulted in 22 injuries
  • issued more than 1,050 severe thunderstorm warnings, and
  • recorded more than 1,200 incidents of severe thunderstorms with damaging large hail that killed six people and injured 46 others.

According to FEMA, tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Here are some tips from FEMA for preparing for and recognizing a tornado:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately!  Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

For more information on what to do during and after a tornado, visit the FEMA tornado website.