Stay prepared throughout the year
Many people associate tornadoes with springtime and summer. After all, peak tornado season is March through May in Missouri and several other states. But tornadoes can happen in the winter months, too, and residents should be prepared if the worst should happen.
The last major winter tornado to hit Fort Leonard Wood occurred on New Year’s Eve, 2010. Categorized as an EF3 — with estimated wind speeds of up to 165 miles per hour — the tornado caused $90 million in damage, destroying 159 homes.
So what can you do to prepare?
According to the National Weather Service, an easy preventative step is to pay attention to weather forecasts, heed storm and tornado watches and warnings and know the difference between the two:
— A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for tornado development. Residents should listen to their weather radio or tune in to broadcast media for information. One of the purposes of the watch is to give you time to prepare and review safety rules.
— A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been detected. If a tornado warning is issued for your neighborhood or workplace, you should seek shelter immediately.
The Department of Homeland Security preparedness website, www.ready.gov, recommends the following safety tips once a tornado warning is issued:
— If you can safely get to a sturdy building, then do so immediately.
— Go to a safe room, basement or storm cellar.
— If you are in a building with no basement, then get to a small interior room on the lowest level.
— Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.
— Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.
— Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
— Use your arms to protect your head and neck.
The ready.gov site also has several tips on making emergency plans. Click the “make-a-plan” link for free online documents detailing plans for a range of natural disasters and emergencies.
After the storm
After a tornado strikes, safety officials with ready.gov recommend the following safety tips:
— Continue listening to weather radio updates, local broadcasts and local authorities for updated information.
— If you are trapped, cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing dust. Try to send a text, bang on a pipe or wall, or use a whistle instead of shouting.
— Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines.
— Do not enter damaged buildings until you are told that they are safe.
— Save phone calls for emergencies. Phone systems are often down or busy after a disaster. Use text messaging or social media to communicate with family and friends.
— Be careful during clean-up. Wear thick-soled shoes, long pants and work gloves.
Even areas that are not directly impacted by a tornado strike can experience power and water outages for extended periods of time. You can prepare ahead of time by following these winter-storm tips from the NWS and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency:
— Create a family emergency kit that includes bottled water and canned and dried food that can be prepared without cooking in case of a power outage.
— Make sure you have winter supplies on hand, including rock salt to melt ice on walkways; sand to improve traction; snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
— Secure an alternate fuel source such as firewood or a generator. If you have a fireplace, make sure it functions properly. If you have a generator, make sure you have fuel and that it functions properly. Only operate the generator outdoors. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
— Create a winter car kit in the trunk of the car. This includes: windshield scraper and small broom, flashlight, blanket, spare radio with batteries, snacks or energy-type food, water, jumper cables, flares and matches, a shovel, sand or shingles to give tires traction, extra hats, socks and mittens, a first aid kit and a fluorescent distress flag.
— Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe bursts.
More severe weather preparation information can be found online at https://sema.dps.mo.gov/plan_and_prepare/winter_weather.php.