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Tornado Safety Countdown

Welcome to the first countdown of the series for the next few weeks. This one would hopefully help illustrate best designated tornado shelter.

EF Scale

Before I begin the countdown on biggest don’ts for tornado shelters, I will explain what tornadoes are capable of destroying at each strength. The Enhanced Fujita  is used to rate strength of a tornado based on damage done by the twister. It had been in use since 2007 after it was revised from original Fujita Scale. This is a basic overview of what a tornado is capable of doing at each level.

EF-0 

65-85 mph

Very common; light damage; tree branches snapped; some damage to roof, siding, and gutter; shallow-rooted trees downed

EF-1 

86-110 mph

Roof stripped; mobile homes flipped or severely damaged; doors, glasses, and windows broken or gone

EF-2

111-135

Considered as strong tornadoes; mobile homes completely demolished or goes missing; roof torn off well-built homes; foundations of frame houses moved; large trees broken or downed; cars picked up; light objects become missiles

EF-3

136-165

Stories knocked off well-built houses; large buildings severely damaged; trains flipped; trees debarked; heavy cars go airborne; structures with weak foundations also go airborne for some distance

EF-4

166-200 mph

Violent; well-built and whole frame houses flattened; cars and small missiles thrown

EF-5

200+ mph

Rarest and most powerful; cars thrown over 100 m; well-constructed homes demolished and cleaned off the foundations; structural deformations in high-rise buildings

Top 3 Worst Places to Take Shelter

1. Trees

This is an event that happened in real life. In an episode of Pit Bulls and Parolees, a few people actually tied themselves to trees when an EF-4 tornado struck Tuscaloosa, AL. It seems silly on the surface, but the reason for tying up to trees ahead of an EF-4 tornado was actually far deeper and heartbreaking. They were trying to save the rescue dogs, and the people in the nearby underground shelter kicked them out for having animals. There were no other nearby options for shelter, and they had to face an oncoming EF-4 tornado with no protection at all. One of them filmed herself saying goodbye to her family in other states just in case she did not make it. The people managed to survive the direct impact of the tornado with some injuries, but it’s still a very dangerous place to take cover. Also, they lost some of their rescue animals in the tornado. I decided to place it on the list because most people are sane enough not to tie themselves to trees during a tornado, but I also feel bad for those desperate people.

2. Mobile Homes

If there’s someone who needs help getting out, help that person.  Make a beeline for a neighbor’s well-constructed house. Make friends with these neighbors with a storm shelter or head to a community shelter.

3. Overpass

Some people still take shelter under an overpass. This is the most common shelter promoted by the media. However, there is no protection from the winds in an underpass.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Vehicles -Generally safer than mobile homes; depends on the situation; if tornado is far away or not approaching, just drive away at right angle of tornado’s movement and find a sturdy building to take cover in; if  a tornado is close by and you’re stuck in traffic, look for a sturdy building or underground shelter; if no shelter is available, look for low spot or ditch to lie in. If unable to get out of vehicle, put a seatbelt on and cover your head.

Southwest corner of the house/ basement- This is a  classic tornado myth; tornadoes do not care what direction they go in.

Large open areas such as gym, cafeteria, and auditorium (without reinforcement)

Safest Places

1. Underground shelter/ sturdy basement

2. Bathroom, closets, under staircases, hallways, walk-in coolers in gas stations (best no window and on lowest floor)

Some buildings have designated tornado shelters that may not be apparent at first. Some examples I saw were small lyceum and certain sections of hallways at my school, a couple of classrooms I saw in the National Weather Center and some dorm hallways.  They’re well built to protect a large number of people from the tornado, and they also serve other purposes when not needed for tornadoes.

Final Statements

I am a trained NWS spotter, and this blog is meant to be informative about the weather with light humor and commentaries.

Sources:

https://weather.com/safety/tornado/news/what-to-do-see-tornado-while-driving

https://www.kansas.com/news/article1118236.html

https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes

https://weather.com/storms/tornado/news/enhanced-fujita-scale-20130206

 

The next countdown might deal with do’s and don’t’s for droughts and wildfires. The reason for the next one is that the majority of wildfires are caused by human activity, and some are easily avoidable.

About Ivy MacDaniel

I am a sophomore who’s majoring in physics with mathematics minor. I love weather, especially thunderstorms and tornadoes. My hobbies are chess, drawing, and outdoor activities. I am a trained storm spotter.

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