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How to Prepare for a Tornado

Enjoying the great outdoors is one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, when the tornado sirens go off and the weather swings towards the extreme, it's best to be prepared. Although you’re not able to eliminate every risk when it comes to preparing for a tornado, there some smart steps you can take to protect your home and your family.

Preparing for a Tornado Warning

Tornado preparedness is all about having a plan on where to go and what to do before a tornado strikes. Even with storm prediction centers’ advanced notice, you may not have a lot of time to react when watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service for your area. Take a look at these tips to be prepared for a tornado:

Designate a shelter. A basement is an ideal place to go, but if you home doesn’t have one, seek shelter in a room on the lowest level of your home. It’s best to take shelter in a smaller area, like an interior room, without any windows.

Build an emergency kit. By having a severe weather emergency kit at the ready, you’ll be better able to manage power outages, injuries and meal preparation until first responders can get to your area. Emergency supplies such as a flashlight, portable wind-up radio and a good first aid kit can also help you stay safe.

Develop an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in your household understands the local siren warning system and where to go when they hear it. Listen to the radio and TV for severe weather warnings. Have a clearly defined plan in place so everyone knows what to do and where to go if something unexpected happens.

Make safety improvements to your home. Since garage doors are highly susceptible to wind damage, it’s a great idea to retrofit them to improve wind resistance. Consider installing high-impact windows designed for wind resistance and make sure entry doors have at least three hinges and a deadbolt lock. Have a contractor examine your roof and foundation to ensure they're anchored securely, too.

Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warnings: What You Need to Know

Usually, you’ll be able learn about watches and warnings in your area online, from local TV or through NOAA weather radio broadcasts. When conditions are favorable for the development of severe weather, it’s key to get details on what areas are impacted. In the United States, watches and warnings are typically issued on a per-county basis. It’s also important to know what the differences are between tornado warnings and tornado watches:

Tornado watch. When the potential for tornadoes exists, a watch is issued. You should be ready to react quickly and move to your designated shelter if necessary. During this time, be sure to check your supplies, equipment and first aid kit to be sure everything is stocked and ready.

Tornado warning. A tornado has been spotted or weather radar indicates that one is present in the warning area. Be sure to reach out to emergency contacts and let them know of the weather emergency.

With an eminent threat to your health and safety, you need to act quickly to protect yourself from flying debris and related dangers. Warnings are issued for smaller areas — like the size of a city — but can include several counties depending on the tornado’s projected path.

Because a tornado’s path is erratic, most tornado warning zones are in the shape of a cone that extends away from its last known position. During the time that the warning is active, trained spotters, weather radar or law enforcement officials may update official weather services with data on course changes, so it’s important to stay informed when tornado warnings are active.

What are the Signs of Tornadoes?

When weather conditions are right for a tornado to develop by day, you may find differences in light and weather. Take a look at these indications that a tornado may be approaching:

Sky and cloud color shift to green. You may find the color of the sky changing to a blue-green shade. It’s thought that this is due to local clouds carrying more water droplets than they do typically. Other factors can also contribute to the discoloration like evening light filtering with the greener hue of heavy storm clouds.

An approaching cloud of debris. Tornadoes will pull dirt and debris into the air as the high winds rotate around the funnel cloud.

Hail without rain. Another key indicator of an impending tornado is the presence of an intense hail storm that’s not usually accompanied with rain.

A calm before the storm. In many cases, the wind and storm will calm down in the time immediately before a tornado strikes.

A loud roar like a freight train. Although this sounds like the stuff of urban legends, many eyewitnesses report hearing the tornado before seeing it, if at all. The roar is the result of intense ground-level winds rotating inside and around the funnel cloud.

At night, bright flashes of blue-green light. Tornadoes during night time can be hard to clearly identify. When short, bright blue-green flashes are present nearby, this is can be the result of power lines arching after they’ve been cut by high winds or material in the debris field.

Although the idea of dealing with the aftermath of a major storm may not be pleasant, being ready for natural disasters is important. And a key part of being prepared is having an insurance policy to protect your home from the unexpected. So check in with your American Family Insurance agent and review your coverage options. They’d be happy to help you create a policy that fits your needs.

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Related Topics: Safety Tips , Wellness