National Weather Service forecasters used to only be able to see green blobs on their radar scopes and had to wait for visual confirmation of the tornado before issuing a tornado warning. Today’s forecasters, thanks to a $4.5 billion weather service modernization effort, view evolving storms in graphic detail and can now issue warnings before tornadoes even form.
Facts About Tornadoes:
- They are known to strike quickly, with little or no warning
- They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel
- The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but can move in any direction
- The average speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph
- Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land
- Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer
- Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 4 pm and 9 pm, but may occur at any time
Know the Warning Terms
Make sure you are familiar with tornado terminology:
- Tornado Watch – weather conditions are suitable for tornadoes to form. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, commercial radio, the internet or television for information.
- Tornado Warning – a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar in your area and there may be a serious threat to life and property to those in the path of the tornado. Take shelter immediately.
If you see approaching storms or any of the tornado danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately. If you are in a building, school, hospital, factory or high-rise structure, follow these guidelines:
- Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level.
- If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls.
- Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
- Get under a sturdy table or desk and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
- Do not open windows.
Every Business Should Have a Tornado Emergency Plan
Does your business have an emergency plan in the event of a tornado warning or a tornado touchdown?
- Do your employees know where to go if there’s a tornado?
- Do you have evacuation routes and exits posted around your place of business?
- Do you have a system in place to ensure all personnel are accounted for?
- Do you have copies of important documents and computer system backups located off site?
- Do you have a plan for communicating with your employees in case of a tornado?
- Are you aware of employees with disabilities and other special needs? Do you have a plan for them?
- Have you discussed how you will coordinate evacuations and preparedness with adjacent businesses?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, it’s time to create or review your emergency plan. Use the guidelines listed above to instruct your employees on what to do in case of a tornado. Review these plans every spring to remind them how critical it is to be safe during a potential outbreak of storms.
Sources: NOAA, FEMA, OSHA