There’s a reason why a tornado strikes immediate fear for those in its path. These violent storms can flip cars, uproot trees, and destroy entire properties. Their powerful winds can even lift objects hundreds of feet off the ground and leave complete devastation in their wake.
Here’s what you need to know to keep your home, your vehicle, and your family safe from tornadoes and high winds.
What is a tornado?
A tornado is a spinning, funnel-shaped cloud usually formed as part of a thunderstorm. Tornadoes can be over a mile wide and as much as 50 miles long. Their narrow funnel shape extends from sky to ground with winds that can reach speeds up to 300 mph. (To put that in context, the average car can be moved by a 90-mph wind.)
While certain regions of the country have been dubbed “Tornado Alley,” it’s not true that tornadoes are prone to occur in those places. Tornadoes can occur anywhere and anytime and have been reported in all 50 states.
How do we predict tornadoes?
Tornados, and their paths, are notoriously difficult to predict. Even meteorologists who study the weather don’t know for sure how they form. However, the National Weather Service is able to track conditions that can contribute to tornadoes—and issue tornado watches and warnings as needed.
A tornado watch means to prepare for severe weather. A tornado warning means that a funnel cloud has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar.
What are the warning signs of a tornado?
By the time you see warning signs, that means a tornado is well on its way. You’ll need to act fast. Here are just some signs to look for:
- Large hail without rain
- Dark or greenish sky
- An approaching cloud of debris
- A loud roar like that of a freight train
- How do you prepare for a tornado?
You can take the steps to protect your home, your car, and your family right now.
1. Sign up for severe weather alerts. You can get critical and timely information from local media broadcasts and the emergency alert system on your TV or desktop and mobile devices. In addition, your local utility company, township, city, or state may offer free alerts. Check with your electric or gas company, and with city hall or municipal government.
2. Develop a family disaster plan. Your plan of action will identify where you and your family will shelter in place, and what to do if you get separated. It also will address any special needs of family members and your pets.
3. If there is not a safe space in your home to wait out a tornado, research local public shelters. For example, if you live in a mobile home, tornadoes can easily turn over mobile homes. Plan to go to a public shelter.
4. Gather emergency supplies in case you need to shelter in place. Keep them together in an easily accessible place. Include water, nonperishable food, and medication. Pack a first aid kit.
5. If there is a tornado watch, store items like outdoor furnishings that could become flying debris. Make sure cars are parked well away from trees.
How do you stay safe during a tornado?
If you’re home…
- Go immediately to a safe place such as a basement, storm cellar, center hall, or small interior room in your home. Choose the lowest floor possible and avoid windows. Also, avoid places where heavy items like refrigerators may be directly above you. If a tornado strikes, it could come crashing down.
- For added protection, get under a table. Cover yourself with thick padding such as blankets or even a mattress. This will help in case the ceiling falls in.
- If the power goes out, use flashlights rather than candles if you need a light. An open flame can create a fire hazard if gas lines are damaged by severe weather.
- Have a weather radio or your phone tuned into local weather. Tornadoes can be accompanied by flooding. Know when the tornado is gone and it is safe to emerge.
If you’re driving…
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in a car. Pull over.
- Tune into your local weather radio station, or if you are traveling, call the weather emergency number listed on the signs along the highway.
- Park in a low, flat location. Avoid bridges or overpasses.
- If you can, leave your car and get to safety inside a sturdy building.
- If you cannot find adequate shelter, then stay in your car with your seat belt buckled. Put your head down below the windows. Cover your body with a coat or blanket and your head with your arms.
What do you do after a tornado?
Once it is safe to venture out, it’s time to inspect the damage. Wait until daylight and make sure to look around safely. Stay clear of fallen power lines. Stay out of damaged buildings. Make a plan to clear away debris and downed trees from your yard.
If your home, car, or property suffered damage from the tornado, you will want to take the following steps:
- Secure your property from further damage.
- Take photos to document what has happened.
- Alert your insurance company, determine if you are covered for the damage, and file a claim.
You have home and car insurance for a reason. Put it to work if you need it. Make sure you and your family are fully protected in the event of a tornado, and any damage that follows, such as flooding. Call a California Casualty agent today at 1.866.704.8614 or visit our website www.calcas.com.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.