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How to Survive A Tornado

Survival Secrets to Surviving a Tornado .

Everything You Need to Know About Tornadoes and How to Survive a Super Tornado. Warning: Tornadoes Can Level Entire Neighborhoods and Collapse Buildings.

Are Tornadoes Getting Bigger?

It would seem that way. The loss of life and property has been staggering in these recent events.

Recent Tornadoes a Reminder: Be Prepared

It also serves as a warning for the rest of us of the need to prepare against nature's grandest atmospheric force, the tornado. At their greatest strength, twisters can approach speeds of 320 miles per hour - enough power to level the best-constructed brick walls, rip large homes from their foundations and up into the air, and throw tractor-trailers a distance of about 300 feet.

(Discovery Channel: The Birth of a Super Tornado video footage)

Where Tornadoes Strike

The greatest and most frequent tornado occurrences happen in the United States. Tornadoes can in fact form in any state, but they occur most frequently in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.

Whether you live in this group of states - often called "Tornado Alley" - or not, spring brings the increased possibility of a deadly tornado. Are you prepared?

Learn about the atmospheric events that signal the possibility of a tornado -- and what safety measures you can take to survive if a twister hits.

Tornadoes - 'The Finger of God'

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a tornado as:

A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud. It is spawned by a thunderstorm (or sometimes as a result of a hurricane) and produced when cool air overrides a layer of warm air, forcing the warm air to rise rapidly. The damage from a tornado is a result of the high wind velocity and wind-blown debris. Tornado season is generally March through August, although tornadoes can occur at any time of year. They tend to occur in the afternoons and evenings: over 80 percent of all tornadoes strike between noon and midnight.

Each year, about 100,000 thunderstorms form over the United States. Between 600 and 1,000 of those thunderstorms will give birth to tornadoes.

Some may also remember the now famous quote from the film 'Twister', when a character asked a group of meteorologists following a series of tornadoes - "storm chasers" - how they would define the strongest twisters. After a moment of silence, one of them replies with a depth of feeling approaching awe that such an event is "the finger of God."

That's a high statement. But there's something about the greatest tornadoes that makes the highness hard to dismiss.

Tornado Facts

*Tornadoes are the most destructive of all weather-related events, and produce the most violent winds on earth. Winds inside the greatest twisters can swirl well over 300 mph.

*Tornadoes can be nearly invisible, marked only by swirling debris at the base of the funnel. Some are composed almost entirely of windblown dust; others can be composed of several mini-funnels.

*Twisters can reach heights of 60,000 feet into the atmosphere.

*On average, during a tornado's 'path' - the total area certain to suffer at least some destruction by its deadly force - the twister will travel about 4 miles on the ground and cut a swath about 400 yards wide; but the worst ones can travel for 100 miles and be as large as a mile wide.

*The average tornado travels along the ground at a speed of 25 to 40 mph. but can go from one place to the next at speeds of up to 70 mph.

*Twisters stay on the ground for an average of four to five minutes; however, a tornado can touch down several times.

*Most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast.

*Most twisters in the Northern Hemisphere rotate in a counter-clockwise direction. Most in the Southern Hemisphere rotate in a clockwise direction.

*Building damage during a tornado happens when high winds cause a buildup of pressure on building surfaces. This pressure is wind velocity squared.

*Most tornadoes occur between 3 pm and 7 pm

*Tornadoes occur throughout the world; however, the greatest number and most intense, deadly tornadoes occur in the United States.

*About 800 tornadoes touch down in the United States each year.

*Half of all tornadoes occur during the spring months of April, May, and June.

*Only 2 percent of tornadoes are considered violent, but those storms cause 70 percent of tornado-related deaths.

*In November 1988, a rash of 121 tornadoes struck 15 south central states, resulting in 14 lives lost and damages reaching $108 million.

*According to the National Weather Service, about 42 people are killed because of tornadoes each year.

Luckily, we are not mere sitting ducks, even against something as powerful and unpredictable as a twister. Every year, scientists and meteorologists are learning more about the formation and behavior of the mighty winds. This has resulted in quicker and more reliable emergency broadcasts accurately predicting where a tornado will appear and its probable path.

For instance, the quick reports of twisters possibly headed into the heart of Oklahoma City in May of '99 certainly saved many lives. Those reports were only possible because of what had been learned about twisters in the early and mid-90s.

Also, the fact that tornadoes usually strike between 3-7 pm gives us a fairly certain time frame in which to look out for them, and ensures us that most people will be awake and will probably hear reports immediately if a dangerous situation arises.

And in the US, if a situation begins as we're outside away from a radio or

TV or when we're asleep, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alert radio receiver - equipped with the famous warning siren - can warn of an impending tornado if people are away from the usual immediate sources.

The Fujita - Pearson (FPP) Tornado Scale

Shortly, this is a system of estimating and reporting both tornado wind intensity, devised by Professor T. Theodore Fujita (1920-1998), and path length and width by Allen Pearson in 1971. It was quickly taken up as the best means to rate a twister's destructive capacity. The scale is based on the damage a tornado causes on man-made structures.

According to Fujita and Pearson, the size of a tornado's funnel is not an indication of its intensity. The Fujita Scale is therefore based on damage, not the appearance of the funnel.

*F0 - Gale Tornado 40-72 mph

Path length 0.3-0.9 miles; path width 6-17 yards

Light damage; Some damage to chimneys; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over; sign boards damaged.

F1 - Moderate Tornado (73 - 112 mph)

Path length: 1.0-3.1 miles; path width: 18-55 yards

Moderate damage; The lower limit is the beginning of hurricane wind speed; peels surface off roofs; mobile homes pushed off foundations or overturned; moving autos pushed off the road; attached garages may be destroyed.

F2 - Significant Tornado (113 - 157 mph)

Path length: 3.2-9.9 miles; path width: 56-175 yards

Considerable damage; entire roofs torn from frame houses; mobile homes demolished; boxcars pushed over; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated.

F3 - Severe Tornado (158 - 206 mph)

Path length: 10-31 miles; path width: 176-566 yards

Severe damage; walls torn from well-constructed houses; trains overturned; most trees in forests uprooted; heavy cars lifted off ground and thrown.

F4 - Devastating Tornado (207 - 260 mph) Path length: 32-99 miles; path width: 0.3-0.9 miles

Well-constructed houses leveled; structures with weak foundations blown off some distance; cars thrown and large missiles generated.

F5 - Incredible Tornado (261 - 318 mph) Path length: 100-315 miles; path width: 1.0-3.1 miles

Strong frame houses lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances to disintegrate; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air 100 yards or more; trees debarked; steel reinforced concrete structures badly damaged.

Awesome Power of a Tornado

Now that you know about the awesome power behind a tornado, unless you're a professional and risk life and limb for a living, under no circumstances should you ever attempt to follow or chase a twister down. They are, for all practical purposes, still quite unpredictable, and may surge with far greater strength, disappear and reappear, or change direction at a moment's notice.

We are a survival site, and so the very best advice we can give is to let the storm chasing to those who are either sufficiently trained, or simply stupid enough, to follow one of these things. You're not actors on a movie set; there is no take two in real-life. Your only worry should be to protect yourself, those you care for, and your home as best you can. How do you do that?

How To Survive a Tornado

Many thanks here to both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) for their detailed information on how one can best prepare for a twister - before it hits, as it's sweeping over you, and immediately after the event.

Many may suppose that they need only worry about the funnel cloud as it sweeps over them; but without the right preparations beforehand or maintaining the correct behavior afterward, a person could still easily end up becoming one of those injured, if not worse. Avoid such problems by knowing what to do before it happens .

Before a Tornado

The best precautions before a twister hits:

Determine the best location in both your home and where you work or go to school where you can take shelter when threatened by a tornado. A basement or cellar will usually afford the best protection. If an underground shelter is not available, identify an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor.

Conduct periodic tornado safety drills with your family.

Especially if you live in 'tornado alley', you should know the locations of designated shelters in places where you and your family spend time, such as public buildings, nursing homes and shopping centers. Ask whether your children's' schools have identified shelter space.

If a tornado is baring down, put on a helmet. Helmets with face protection (commonly worn on dirt bikes and street bikes) are the first choice to turn to. A secondary choice is a football helmet or baseball catcher's mask with face guard. Third choice would be a helmet worn by skiers / snowboarders, or even a baseball helmet.

Emergency Supplies

Have emergency supplies on hand: Candles, flashlights, 3-5 days of food for each person in your family, 3-5 days of bottled water for each person in your family, propane cooking stove, extra propane, cold weather clothing, cold weather sleeping gear, rain gear, axe, lighters, wooden matches, gasoline stored in approved containers away from the home such as in or outside a shed on your property.

Be Able to Turn Off Utilities

Learn how to shut off the utilities to your home. Purchase a wrench specifically for shutting off natural gas.

Have Plans for Locating Family Members

Decide how and when your family will reunite, if separated. Carefully go over a map of the area and have a Plan A meeting place as well as a Plan B (should Plan A be flooded, destroyed, or have something else take place making it unsuitable or inaccessible to meet other family members).

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