Here in the Midwest, it is easy for us to become complacent about tornadoes because, for most of us, nothing terrible has ever come out of a tornado warning. But no matter how common hearing about them becomes, there will never be anything routine about tornadoes. They are unpredictable and dangerous. Tornadoes can cause a shocking amount of destruction in a matter of seconds, and it is important that we take them seriously.
Last year was one of the most deadly tornado years ever recorded in the United States. According to forecasters at AccuWeather.com, we should expect this year to be the same, if not worse, than last year...and the storm systems that have been ripping through the Midwest this spring aren't doing anything to disprove them. They have already resulted in widespread damage and multiple fatalities.
To help you make sure you aren't caught unprepared, we have put together a quick list of some things that you can do to help keep yourself safe in tornadic weather.
A watch is the most important during weather events that come and go quickly, like severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash floods, since these events often happen so fast that there is no time to issue a warning. For events that last longer, like extreme temperatures, hurricanes and winter storms, a watch will mean that there is no IMMEDIATE threat yet, but that you should still pay attention as it could turn dangerous. In any case, a weather watch should still be taken seriously and you should prepare yourself to take action if things take a turn for the worst. In the case of a tornado, a watch means that tornadoes are likely to develop in the watch area, so stick close to shelter. Keep your eyes open for some of the early indicators of tornadic weather - dark greenish clouds, hail, heavy rain followed by eery calm or sudden intense winds, rotating clouds, flashes of light at ground level (they indicate power lines being snapped by wind), and a loud "freight train" sound that doesn't go away in a few seconds like thunder does.
Ideally this should be a basement, crawlspace or storm cellar. If you don't have any of those, pick an interior room on the lowest floor of the home with the fewest number of windows (no windows would be best!). For mobile home or apartment dwellers, check and see if there is already a tornado plan in place and if there is a community area designated as a storm shelter that you can get to quickly. Have frequent tornado drills to make sure everyone knows where to go and the fastest way to get there.
map of the surrounding counties so that you can quickly identify where the storm is, protective coverings nearby to protect yourself from flying debris.
Stay as far away from glass/windows as possible.
No matter where you are, stay as close to the ground as possible.
heck yourself and the people around you for any injuries. Take care of what minor injuries you can with first aid and try to contact emergency services for any major injuries. Keep everyone together and wait for a sign that it is safe to move. If the building you were in was damaged and you are able to get out safely, do so in case it collapses. There might be hazards that you cannot see, like natural gas or broken power lines, so don't wander around too much or use matches or lighters. Emergency crews should be on their way shortly to help out, so the best thing is to wait from instructions from them.