Tornado Safety Tips


If you’re new to the Wichita area, you may have concerns about tornadoes, so we’ve compiled some information to help you feel prepared as the spring storm season approaches. These tornado safety tips will help you plan what to do if disaster strikes.

Severe Weather Awareness Week

March 2-6, 2015 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Kansas. This is a perfect time to make sure you and your family are prepared for a tornado. The annual Statewide Tornado Drill is Tuesday, March 3 at 1:30 pm.

Reasons to Take Tornado Threats Seriously:

  • Tornadoes can form quickly, with little warning.
  • According to the National Weather Service, the average lead-time for a warning is 13 minutes.
  • Tornadoes can form at any time of day, but are most common in late afternoon and evening hours.
  • Average speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but they can reach speeds up to 70mph.
  • Tornadoes are possible any time of the year, but are more common in spring and summer. (In December 2014, a tornado struck Harper, KS.)

What’s the Difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning?

A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in the area. Stay alert for developing storms, and monitor radio or TV weather reports. Be prepared to take shelter if conditions worsen.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted visually or indicated by radar. Immediately take shelter!

Tips to Prepare for a Tornado

Create an Emergency Kit
Your kit should include items you would need to survive for at least 72 hours. Suggestions are three days’ worth of non-perishable food and at least one gallon of water per day for each person in your family, battery-powered radio with extra batteries, flashlight with batteries, dust masks, can opener, baby food, diapers, formula, blankets, feminine and personal hygiene supplies, medications, a first aid kit, pet food and medicines.

Develop a Family Communication Plan
You never know where you might be if disaster strikes. That’s why your family should practice tornado drills and plan how to communicate and meet up with each other after an emergency. Make sure your kids know what to do if they’re home alone during a tornado watch or warning. Discuss what to do if a tornado strikes while family members are at work, school, church, extracurricular activities, and even driving.

Watch for Signs of a Tornado:

  • Dark sky, clouds become greenish
  • Wind dies down and air becomes still
  • Large hail
  • Large, dark, low-lying cloud
  • Rotation in low-lying clouds
  • Loud roar that sounds like a freight train
  • Cloud of debris
  • Funnel cloud

If a Tornado Warning is Issued, Find Shelter Immediately!
The safest place to be in a tornado is in a basement, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you don’t have access to a basement, here are some alternatives:

In a house or office – Stay away from windows. Go to a small interior room on the lowest level, such as a bathroom or closet. Cover yourself with blankets or a mattress to give protection from flying debris.

In a mobile home – Leave immediately! Go to a tornado shelter or other more substantial building. A mobile home can slide or overturn when wind speeds are 70 MPH or higher.

In a public building – Stairwells on the interior of the building, or another interior room on the lowest level are the safest places. Stay away from windows, rooms with wide open roofs, or hallways that open to the south or west.

In a car – An overpass is NOT a good place to shelter from a tornado! If no other shelter is available, take cover in a ditch, culvert or ravine that’s below ground level.

The most important tornado safety tip is to be prepared. Creating a plan and building an emergency kit takes less than an hour, but it could save you and your family’s lives.

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