Missouri’s tornado season occurs between March and June, according to the National Weather Service, and a little knowledge can go a long way toward staying safe.
According to the State of Missouri’s weather safety website, https://stormaware.mo.gov, tornadoes are most likely to materialize between 3 and 9 p.m. They cause an average of 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries in the U.S. every year, and the strongest ones have winds exceeding 200 mph.
Understanding the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale
Tornadoes are sometimes labeled with terms such as “F3” or “F5” to describe their severity. Beginning in 2007, the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale classifies twisters according to their wind speeds, with the least severe being labeled “EF-0,” and the most extreme taking the frightening “EF-5” designation.
Tornado watch versus tornado warning
Which one means more danger? A tornado watch means there is a watch for activity but no tornadoes have been seen yet. A tornado warning means it’s time to raise the alarm because a tornado has been sighted.
During a tornado watch, it’s crucial to get updates as soon as they become available. Turn on the television, radio or computer and navigate to the local weather channel or news station.
“If we’ve got severe storms already there, that’s the trigger for us to say, ‘this could be a tornado event,’” said Troy Carney, Installation Emergency manager. “The awareness factor is the big thing because (most of the time) there is a storm already there of some sort.”
During a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.
“If you hear the sirens, take action – that’s the biggest thing,” Carney said. “The (statistics) say that more people are killed from inaction than anything when it pertains to severe weather.”
Find a sturdy building if caught unaware and outside – do not hide under an overpass or bridge.
The EOC reminded community members that both the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence headquarters building and General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital have designated tornado shelters, should one be outside and close to those buildings during a storm.
“Worst case – if you’re not in the car or on a bike, find a ditch,” Carney said. “It still works. Getting in a low level, if anything, (could) save your life.”
If there is an underground level in a building, such as a basement or cellar, go there. If not, stay away from windows and go to the most inner room of the first floor.
Do not worry about prized possessions outside in the car; don’t spend time gathering all the expensive belongings in a home, like electronics; and most importantly, do not risk lives by standing outside to observe a storm – meteorologists and other climate science professionals will likely have videos online afterward. The No. 1 priority during potentially catastrophic storms such as tornadoes should always be staying safe.
Keeping the household safe
The first and most critical action to keep the household safe is staying up-to-date from weather agencies and news stations.
From there, refer to these tips from ready.gov:
— Watch for the signs: a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris or a loud roar like a freight train.
— Seek shelter immediately upon receipt of a tornado warning.
— Anyone who must go to a community or group shelter during severe weather should take hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to clean, disinfect, deodorize and remove allergens from surfaces.
— Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.
— If you are in a car or outdoors and cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms, and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible. Flying debris is one of the leading causes of injuries and fatalities in tornado events.
— Stay tuned to local authorities and weather agencies even after it seems a tornado has passed; multiple storms within the same day are quite possible.
— If a tornado has struck the shelter you are in and you are trapped, cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing dust. Try to send a text message, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle. Conserve energy instead of shouting.
— Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
— Do not enter damaged buildings until you are told they are safe.
Carney said the EOC receives its notifications from the NWS station in Springfield, Missouri, some 97 miles away, and because of that, Fort Leonard Wood residents may not have time to delay.
“The National Weather Service in Springfield is awesome and they do a great job, but they can only tell us when they see it, and by then, it’s already started,” he said. “It’s not like a hurricane where you can get three, four day’s notice that it’s coming.”
“When they see (tornado activity) on the radar, it’s already started or starting to form,” he added. “They send out the message to everyone, and we’ve basically got 10 minutes to push out emails, texts, sirens to let the entire population of the installation know, ‘take action.’”
While all service members are automatically enrolled in the ALERT! Mass Warning Notification System, family members have to do so manually.
“If (family members) have not signed up to receive ALERT! notifications, get ahold of me,” Carney said. “Dependents have to do it through either myself or one of the folks that work in the EOC.”
To contact the Emergency Operations Center, call 573.563.6126. To contact Carney directly, call 573.563.5606.
For more information on tornadoes, visit the NWS website at https://www.weather.gov/safety/tornado.
(Editor’s note: Information provided in this article was taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, State of Missouri and the Department of Homeland Security.)