Yesterday, Oklahoma saw what may be categorized as an F5 tornado; the wreckage is worse than any residents have seen in a decade, and even for a region that is relatively accustomed to severe weather and tornadoes the events of yesterday afternoon have left residents in shock. Many in Moore, Oklahoma have safe rooms, and were able to seek life saving shelter; but at least 24 lost their lives. Nine of the fatalities were children who were buried in the rubble of a local school.
It is severe storm season, and many parts of the country are at risk for tornadoes, so knowing what to do in the case of a warning is essential:
NOAA recommends that everyone learn what to look for in the sky. They say that this is one of the best ways for people to stay safe during times when severe weather may pop up. Persistently rotating clouds can be an indicator of unstable air, and should be watched for. Low and dipping clouds can also be a warning sign of tornadoes.
It’s also crucial to keep an eye out for wind shifts, heavy rain or hail that is followed by an extreme calm, and whirling debris on the ground are indicators of a tornado.
What to do during a tornado
If all goes well, when a tornado strikes, there will be enough warning to get to a safe place. It’s essential to seek shelter in a room of the lowest part of a building, whether it’s a house, apartment or business. Interior rooms, such as bathrooms or closets, and hallways or basements are the safest places to be. A storm shelter is ideal, but not always available.
Once in the safe place, tune into the local news, use a weather radio or even cell phones to keep track of the storm progress. Kneel in a corner or under stairs. In a bathroom, climbing into a bathtub can provide partial shelter.
Place your head as close to between the knees as possible and cover it with your hands. Additional protection, such as blankets, mattresses and even towels can provide protection against flying debris.
When in a vehicle, if there is time, making right angles away from a tornado if there is time is might be the best bet, but this should only be done if traffic is light. If there is no time; stay in the car, keep the seatbelt fastened and crouch below windows to protect the head, spine and face.
If it is possible to get lower than the ground, such as in a ditch and it is safe to do so, climb out of the car, get into the ditch away from the vehicle and lay on the stomach. Cover the back of the head with the hands.
After the storm
People should not leave their shelter until they know that everything is clear. Pay attention for sirens, a weather radio, or if cell towers are still standing, cell phones can be another option.
Once the all clear is given, come out of the shelter. Establish a place to meet family members and then stay where you are until rescue personnel can get to you. If necessary, and possible, provide assistance to those that need it, but use caution.