Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Survival Tips for a Tornado/Cyclone Disaster

I’ve always been afraid of tornadoes, even before I heard of the Wicked Witch of the West and: “Surrender Dorothy!”
by Leon Pantenburg

My Dad saw this funnel cloud headed in his direction when he was cultivating corn. He abandoned the tractor and ran for shelter.

So what is the first step?

An approaching tornado is terrifying: Know what to do before hand, so you don't panic and make fatal mistakes.

Start by learning about tornadoes and what you can do to survive them. Here’s some suggestions from the FEMA:

Before the potential tornado, be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Listen to the national weather channel or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. You could also buy a Weather Radio Sima WX-200 Emergency Alert Radio
    that plays weather news all the time.
  • Look for approaching storms
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Here’s a survival scenario learning exercise. You’re aware there is a storm watch with potential twisters, and you’re keeping a lookout.

Then someone spots a funnel cloud headed in your direction – what’s the first thing you need to do? (And don’t depend on others – in any crowd, in any urban or wilderness survival emergency, about 80 percent of the people there will have to be told what to do.)

One choice might be (Please bear with me if I’m starting to sound like a broken record!) to start with STOP (Stop, Think, Observe and Plan), the survival mindset exercise.  You can’t think if you have panicked, and you must force yourself to calm down. Then, make a plan.
That’s where the knowledge part of your wilderness survival gear comes in. Instead of drawing a blank about what to do next, remember this advice from the FEMA. These suggestions are part of your survival kit, and will give you an idea of how to respond.

When a weather advisory is broadcast, keep an eye out for trouble!
  • If you are in a building: Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
  • If you’re in a mobile home: Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • If you’re outside with no shelter: Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Don’t get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
If you’re caught in a public building or school, FEMA suggests you get to an interior room or hall or the ground floor. Thunderstorms–tornadoes–lightning– : nature’s most violent storms : a preparedness guide including tornado safety information for schools.  The person with the flashlight, who acts like he/she knows what he is doing automatically, becomes the leader.
Know where you’re going.

Avoid halls that open to the outside, or any places with free-span ceiling that could collapse such as an auditorium or gym.

It’s not true that mobile home parks attract tornadoes. But, it is virtually impossible to secure a trailer to a foundation well enough for it to withstand tornado-speed winds.

Flying debris is responsible for most of the injuries related to tornadoes.
And above all, don’t do stupid things. Don’t stand in the yard videoing the approaching cloud – the flying debris can kill you before you realize you’re in danger. I’ve seen oat straw driven into a tractor tire, and a 78 phonograph stuck in a telephone pole by the force of tornado winds. Don’t waste time taking things out of your home if you have to evacuate.

In Iowa, with its precise road system laid out in square mile grids, many people would park during storms at a crossroads, with their vehicle engines idling. If they spotted a tornado, they would drive off at a 90 degree angle from the funnel cloud.

Exercising the wisdom of teenagers everywhere, some of my friends would gather at popular crossroads, just to have a chance at outrunning a storm. According to the NWS, the average speed of a tornado is about 30 mph, but they travel as fast as 70 mph, and they can change directions without warning.

The experts recommend that you never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
Farm kids were taught early to seek refuge in a culvert under the road if  they get caught in the open during a twister. I don’t know anybody who ever actually did that, but it seems like a good idea. If nothing else, the culvert would offer some protection from flying debris.

Basically, if you found a safe spot and hunkered down until the wind quit blowing, you should be OK. If you were in a building that blew down, emergency personnel will probably be on the scene shortly after the all clear sirens go off.

Recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process, according to FEMA. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. Stay away from the rubble and don’t touch any fallen electrical wires.

Then, be thankful – you’ve experienced one of nature’s most dramatic and deadly displays. And you’re alive to tell the tale!
If you live in an area with the potential for tornadoes or cyclones, you owe it to yourself and your family to be prepared!

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