Tornado Survival

(Survival Manual/1. Disaster/Tornado survival)

A.  Tornado: A deadly natural disaster!
The Midwest portion of the United States has the worst tornadoes in the world, with Kansas and Oklahoma being the two most affected states, while Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and North Texas following follow closely behind.

A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide.

Tornadoes can happen any time of the year and any time of day. In the southern states, peak tornado season is from March through May. Peak times for tornadoes in the northern states are during the summer. A few southern states have a second peak time for tornado outbreaks in the fall. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Planning for a Tornado
When a tornado is coming, you have only a short amount of time to make life-or-death decisions. Advance planning and quick response are the keys to surviving a tornado.
Conduct tornado drills each tornado season. Practice getting to your shelter from different areas of the house. Practice this at night, as well as during the day. Practice with your pets, if you have any, so they too can become comfortable with the escape plan.

Develop an emergency communication plan
In case family members are separated from one another during a tornado (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Tornado Watches and Warnings
It is very important that you discuss with your family members the difference between a “tornado watch” and a “tornado warning.”
A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. This is time to remind family members where the safest places within your home are located, and listen to the radio or television for further developments.
A tornado warning is issued when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

Tornado Danger Signs: Learn these tornado danger signs:
•  An approaching cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
•  Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still.
•  Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

B.  What You Need to do BEFORE a Tornado Strikes
Whether or not you decide that you need a shelter in your house, you can take two important steps to protect yourself and your family during a tornado:
1)  Prepare an emergency plan
2)  Put an emergency supply kit together.

If you decide to install a shelter, your emergency plan should include notifying local emergency managers and family members or others outside the immediate area that you have a shelter. This will allow emergency personnel to quickly free you if the exit from your shelter becomes blocked by debris. You should also prepare an emergency supply kit and either keep it in your shelter or be ready to bring
it with you if you need to evacuate your house. Some of the items that the emergency supply kit should include are:

  • an adequate supply of water for each person in your household
  • non-perishable foods that do not have to be prepared or cooked (if these include canned goods, remember to bring a can opener!)
  • a first-aid kit, including necessary prescription medicines
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Tools and supplies
  • flashlight (do not bring candles or anything that lights with a flame)
  • battery-operated radio
  • cellular phone or CB radio
  • list of telephone important telephone numbers (work numbers, schools, Grandparents, etc.)
  • extra batteries
  • camera and film for recording the damage after the tornado. DO NOT attempt to take pictures of the tornado! tornadoes are unpredictable and deadly!
  • wrench (to turn off household gas and water)
  • clothing and bedding
  • portable toilet
  • Special items:
    • for baby – formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk
    • for adults – contact lenses and supplies, extra glasses
    • for pets – food, leashes, Rescue Remedy calming drops
      (available at local health food stores)

C.   What You Need to do AFTER a Tornado Strikes   

  • Help injured or trapped persons
  • Give first aid when appropriate. Don’t try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Call for help.
  • Turn on radio or television to get the latest emergency information.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave the buildings if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take pictures of the damage–both to the house and its contents– for insurance purposes.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance– infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

D.  Inspecting utilities in a damaged home

  • Check for gas leaks–If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off  the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  • Look for electrical system damage–If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice.
  • Check for sewage and water lines damage–If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.

You can get more information about emergency planning from American Red Cross (ARC) and FEMA publications

E.     Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale

Category F0, Gale tornado, (40-72 mph) Light damage
Some damage to chimneys; break branches off trees; push over shallow-rooted trees; damage to sign boards.
Category F1, Moderate tornado, (73-112 mph) Moderate damage.
The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peel surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the roads. (Hurricane Ike at Lufkin, TX)
Category F2, Significant tornado,  (113-157 mph) Considerable damage.
Roofs torn off frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated.
Category F3, Severe tornado, (158-206 mph) Severe damage
Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; heavy cars lifted off ground and thrown.
Category F4, Devastating tornado (207-260 mph) Devastating damage
Well- constructed houses leveled; structure with weak foundation blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.
Category F5, Incredible tornado (261-318 mph) Incredible damage
Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distance to disintegrate; automobile sized missiles fly through the air in excess of 100 yards; trees debarked; incredible phenomena will occur.

F.  Storm Shelters
Look below to see how Storm Shelters manufactured from inferior materials compare!

Storm Shelter Information

[Internet image, above left: Twister Safe: a) Basic safe room = 5′ X 8′ X 6’4″ = 40 sqft.= $5586.00, b) Larger safe room  6′ X 8′ X 6’4″ = 48sqft. = $6195.00
Image, above right: The Yard Bunker is installed 60 inches below ground with a 2 foot mound of dirt over the top. This fiberglass unit repels water, has a high gloss interior, and is easy to maintain. The large entry door and full size molded stairway makes for easy access, with molded seating for 8 to 12 people. <>]

[Internet image, above left: Steel storm shelter
Image, above right: Concrete storm shelter ]

G.  Tornado realities
News: Tornado outbreak second deadliest in U.S. history- 27 April 2011
Posted: Apr 30, 2011 9:01 AM CDT Updated: Apr 30, 2011 9:46 PM CDT
(RNN) – As the death toll keeps rising, a destructive storm that swept through the Southeast and killed more than 350 people is so far the second deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history.
Authorities and FEMA administrators said the fatality numbers from the devastating severe storms across the South have climbed to 354.
“Large tornado outbreaks like these are very rare,” said Russell Schneider, director of the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center. “But during the days of the storms they seemed all too common, and these were very strong, violent tornadoes.”
The largest death toll was on March 18, 1925, with 747 people being killed by storms that ripped through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

[Internet image of 3 of the many tornados that ripped across the South on Wed. 27 April 2011. Left>
right  images: Tuscaloosa, AL;  north Texas; Ringgold GA.]

Thousands have been injured, and untold more have been left homeless, hauling their belongings in garbage bags or rooting through disgorged piles of wood and siding to find anything salvageable.

While Alabama was hit the hardest, the storm spared few states across the South. Thirty-four people were reported dead in Tennessee, 33 in Mississippi, 15 in Georgia, 7 in Virginia and one in Kentucky. With search and rescue crews still climbing through debris and making their way down tree-strewn country roads, the toll is expected to rise.

“History tells me estimating deaths is a bad business,” said W. Craig Fugate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, in a conference call with reporters. Cries could be heard into the night here on Wednesday, but on Thursday hope was dwindling. Mayor Walt Maddox said that the search and rescue operation would go for 24 to 48 more hours, before the response pivoted its focus to recovery. “They’re looking for five kids in this rubble here,” said Lathesia Jackson-Gibson, 33, a nurse, pointing to the incoherent heap of planks and household appliances sitting next to the muddled guts of her own house. “They’re mostly small kids.”

[Top image: April 27th tornado tracks shown on US map.
Bottom image: Aerial view of one tornado’s track on the ground.]

President Obama announced that he was coming to Alabama on Friday afternoon, saying in a statement that the federal government had pledged its assistance. Gov. Robert Bentley toured the state by helicopter along with federal officials, tracking a vast scar that stretched from Birmingham to his hometown, Tuscaloosa. He declared Alabama “a major, major disaster.” “As we flew down from Birmingham, the track is all the way down, and then when you get in Tuscaloosa here it’s devastating,” Mr. Bentley said at an afternoon news conference, with an obliterated commercial strip as a backdrop.

An enormous response operation was under way across the South, with emergency officials working alongside churches, sororities and other volunteer groups. In Alabama, more than 2,000 National Guard troops have been deployed.

Across nine states, more than 1,680 people spent Wednesday in Red Cross shelters, said Attie Poirier, a spokeswoman with the organization. The last time the Red Cross had set up such an elaborate system of shelters was after Hurricane Katrina, a comparison made by even some of those who had known the experience firsthand. “It reminds me of home so much,” said Eric Hamilton, 40, a former Louisianan, who was sitting on the sidewalk outside the Belk Activity Center, which was being used as a Red Cross shelter in south Tuscaloosa.

Mr. Hamilton lived in a poor area of Tuscaloosa called Alberta City, which residents now describe merely as “gone.” He wiped tears off his cheeks. “I’ve never seen so many bodies,” Mr. Hamilton said. “Babies, women. So many bodies.”

Officials at the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said they had received 137 tornado reports on Wednesday, with 104 of them coming from Alabama and Mississippi. Over all, there have been 297 confirmed tornadoes this month, breaking a 36-year-old record.

Southerners, who have had to learn the drill all too well this month, watched with dread on Wednesday night as the shape-shifting storm system crept eastward across the weather map. Upon hearing the rumble of a tornado, or even the hysterical barking of a family dog, people crammed into closets, bathtubs and restaurant coolers, clutching their children and family photos.

Many of the lucky survivors found a completely different world when they opened their closet doors.
“We heard crashing,” said Steve Sikes, 48, who lives in a middle-class Tuscaloosa neighborhood called the Downs. “Then dirt and pine needles came under the door. We smelled pine. “When you smell pine,” he said, gesturing, by way of a conclusion, toward a wooden wreck behind him, so mangled that it was hard to tell where tree ended and house began.
Some opened the closet to the open sky, where their roof had been, some yelled until other family members pulled the shelves and walls off them. Others never got out.
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Internet images from various states struck by the April 27th tornados.


Looters, con men plague tornado-torn US South
May 4, 2011 at 2:04 PM, Associated Press APISON, Tennessee
(AP) — The crooks walked up to Kenneth Carter’s tornado-damaged property with the purposeful air of relief workers in need of an all-terrain vehicle like the one he had parked out back. “They said, ‘Excuse us, we’ve got to get this four-wheeler out of here,'” said the 74-year-old Apison resident. “I said, ‘I don’t think so — that four-wheeler belongs to me!”

Carter avoided becoming a victim, but authorities say the South has been plagued by a variety of swindles since the twister outbreak last week that ripped apart houses and killed 329 people in seven states. Looters have carried off televisions, power tools and prescription pills. Elsewhere, there are unscrupulous businesses are charging double for a tank of gas or jacking up the cost of a hotel room.

Authorities also warn of construction workers who leave with the cash before opening their tool kit and the danger that identities could be stolen off wind-blown documents.

Though the region has seen similar scams after hurricanes and the Gulf oil spill, the speed of flimflam men this time around has surprised authorities and survivors. “We have received a surprising amount of calls,” said Noel Barnes, consumer protection chief for the Alabama attorney general’s office. “We’re not going to allow people to further victimize our citizens.”

Some residents are packing firearms to scare off the lowlifes. In Alabama, Mike Capps was guarding his parents’ house over the weekend with an M-1 carbine rifle. Capps, 41, said he returned to the site the day after Wednesday’s tornadoes, leaving his parents in the hospital. Walking up Dogwood Lane, he saw a man carrying a rolled-up power cord that looked familiar. Then he noticed the cord had his own name on it. “I said, ‘If your conscience will let you live with what you just did, then you’ve earned that cord.’ And he kept on walking,” Capps said.

Later Capps noticed a group — six adults with children — on the far side of the lot, going through a plastic bag of his mother’s prescription bottles. They were shaking them to see which held pills.

“What are you doing in my house? It’s time to go,” Capps says he told them, and the group complied.

In nearby Birmingham, looters took a woman’s flat screen TV off her wall, while to the west thieves swiped a $150 saw from the remains of Claude Patterson’s welding shop, his livelihood. Elsewhere, stolen items have included the equipment utility companies are using to try to restore power.

Police in several of the states have charged people with looting, though officials said they aren’t keeping statewide numbers on those arrests. Tuscaloosa’s mayor on Wednesday ordered five more days of an 8 p.m. curfew to curb crime in the most heavily damaged areas, to be enforced by police and National Guard troops. The city that was hit the hardest by the outbreak is also going to start credentialing volunteers to prove they are legitimate.

Marauding thieves aren’t residents’ only concern. The attorney general’s office in Alabama has received nearly 1,800 phone calls complaining about price gouging, Barnes said. The complaints include $2 bags of ice being sold for $5, $400 generators being sold for $1,600 on the side of the road, hotels jacking up
their prices and unfair gasoline prices. Just across the border in Tennessee, authorities were investigating a complaint that a service station was charging $40 for $20 worth of gasoline.

Both states have laws against price-gouging. In Alabama, businesses are prohibited after disasters from increasing the price of items for sale or rent by 25 percent or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days.

Dozens of Tennessee gasoline stations were charged with price gouging following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008. Settlements totaled more than $175,000.

This week, Tennessee investigators were urging victims to upload digital pictures of questionable prices to photo-sharing sites, then submit the links through a complaint form on the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance website, spokesman Christopher Garrett said

Officials said they were also receiving reports of another disaster-zone scam: construction crews that offer to repair homes, then disappear with the money after doing shoddy work or none at all. And they warned that criminals might collect confidential information scattered in the debris to use in identity

Among the cruelest scams has been criminals impersonating relief workers to steal from tornado survivors. Authorities in Alabama’s northern Lawrence County have charged three men and a woman with that crime. Rusty Snyder, 34, said he was stunned by how quickly the thieves moved in after Wednesday’s storms.
“It happened at 8:45 at night, and by 10 there were looters,” he said.
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1 Comment

Filed under Survival Manual, __1. Disaster

One response to “Tornado Survival

  1. Thanks for the concise report on preparation for the power of nature. We had a freak tornado at our lake 6 years ago. A tornado came across from the southwest 3 houses west of us pulling off siding, shutters, and lifting their boat lift with boat out of the lake and flipped upside down across the lake. A swath of trees were snapped 20 feet above ground and this path went for 20 miles. Timer was cleared for 3 months to avoid fire hazard of downed trees.

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