Tornado Season Is Upon Us: Here’s What To Do When The Alarm Sounds

It’s the time of year in the United States when tornado season is officially upon us. Tornadoes can occur outside of the typical season, but the vast majority of tornadoes happen during middle to late spring. This is because cool air and warm air are colliding, making a dangerous combination of unstable weather-related phenomena. The United States has more annual tornadoes than any other country, although the reasons for this are not completely clear. Tornadoes tend to be most destructive on flat land, such as the Midwest states of Kansas and Oklahoma, because there aren’t significant mountains to stop them or slow them down.

However, that doesn’t mean a tornado is impossible in any state, even very mountainous regions. Tornados can form very quickly and may strike a valley between mountains, leaving a wake of destruction in its path. While areas that aren’t prone to tornadoes don’t normally have tornado-warning sirens, emergency broadcast systems are available in all areas, which lets viewers or listeners know through radio and television when a tornado is likely or imminent.

google maps tornado [Image via Shutterstock]Some terms that are important to understand are the difference between a “tornado watch” and a “tornado warning.” A watch means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to form; there is warm and cold air violently clashing, severe thunderstorms, and unstable barometric pressure. This does not mean a tornado will form, but the possibility is increased. A tornado warning means that a tornado has formed and has been spotted, whether it has touched ground or not.

Meteorologists and weather buffs have been fascinated by the complexities of tornadoes for years, and with enhanced radar imagining, it is much more likely to accurately predict when a tornado is coming and what its path may be. Tornadoes can be unpredictable, though, suddenly taking a turn or breaking apart completely. With this type of radar imaging, it’s far more likely that people will survive tornadoes, even if they are directly in their path, because they have the advanced warning to take shelter.

[Image via Wichita Eagle /Getty Images] [Photo by Wichita Eagle/Getty Images]It’s important to understand that an emergency plan should be in place for your family before a tornado warning is issued, because at the time it is issued, people tend to panic and there is no time to plan. Especially if you have children, be clear about what they should do if a warning is issued or if they spot a tornado.

Preparing for tornado season isn’t difficult or costly, but it does take some forethought, according to WC Messenger. Even if you don’t have a storm cellar, there are ways of keeping your family and pets reasonably safe during most tornado threats. In the event of a tornado warning, there are several things you will need to do and items you will need.

Pick a central area of your house that doesn’t have windows or not many windows — a bathroom, central hallway, or basement is best. Make sure everyone knows in advance where this location is and who is responsible for gathering which pets, small children, and supplies to bring to the area.

Some things you will need:

  • Candles and something to light them with since electricity is likely to go out
  • a flashlight and radio that are battery-powered, along with extra batteries
  • Non-perishable foods that don’t require cooking
  • A gallon of water for each individual who is weathering the storm
  • Baby wipes and garbage bags for basic sanitation
  • Blankets and raingear
  • Pet food and containers for water if you have pets with you
  • A small supply of any life-saving medications you take
  • A first aid kit

Most people are not directly hit by a tornado but may experience outages of water, electricity, and sewer services for periods of time. It is extremely unlikely that entire towns are destroyed in a tornado, but the possibility exists, so you’ll want to have enough supplies to see you through until help arrives.

[Photo by Getty Images/Staff]