The spring months are the most common months for tornadoes in DFW, but tornadoes have been observed year-round in the Metroplex. When severe weather approaches, never let your guard down just because it’s not ‘that time of the year.’ The FOX 4 Meteorologists have assembled these severe weather tips and 4 Your Safety so you can always be prepared.
TORNADOES: WHAT TO DO...
In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head protection, such as a helmet, can offer some protection also.
In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.
In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. This mobile-home safety video from the State of Missouri may be useful in developing your plan.
At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.
In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.
In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.
Your smartphone is one of your best weapons in your safety arsenal. The Federal Government now sends weather warning text alerts to your phone based on your location. While these will alert you to immediate weather dangers, using our free WAPP to track to storms one you’ve been alerted to danger is key. The National Weather Service also makes a great APP for weather-tracking, and another great app for radar buffs is made by RadarScope, though it’s not free.
One of the most common complaints from tornado victims is that they didn’t hear the tornado sirens go off. Siren warning systems are ONLY meant to warn folks in the outdoors and can be prone to power failure, coverage, and technical issues.
Before any severe weather happens, you need to be prepared. The time to act isn’t when severe weather is occurring. Here are the TEN most important things you need to have ready to go:
- Three days water/non-perishable food per person/pets (can opener/utensils/plates)
- NOAA weather radio …preferably with a hand crank option
- Extra batteries ….and USB chargers especially for cell phones
- First aid kit and extra prescription medications
- Clothing …including diapers for infants
- Cash or travelers checks
- Copies of IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS in a waterproof bag
- Sleeping bags
- Moist towelettes & garbage bags for personal hygiene
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WATCH & WARNING...
Watch: Conditions may favor severe weather developing in your area anywhere during a specified time, usually within an hour or several hours. That may include hail, wind, tornadoes, or flooding. It means that you should become aware that action may be needed and to review severe weather safety. It does NOT mean that any emergency is imminent.
Warning: Severe weather is occurring/or likely to occur in YOUR county. Lead time may be up to an hour, but very often is only a few minutes. You need to take immediate action to protect yourself and others around you.
If severe weather is imminent:
Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a storm with greater than 58 MPH winds or 1” HAIL is likely. Try to secure all possible flying objects, and if possible move your car to a covered location to avoid damage. Stay away from trees and windows. Turn off all electrical items that could be damaged.
Flood Warning means that flooding is occurring. Unplug electrical items if possible and move to higher ground (top floor of homes). Evacuate low lying areas.
Tornado Warning means a tornado has either been indicated by radar or has actually been sighted. Lead time is often only a few minutes. Follow tornado safety guidelines.