We are fast approaching the season of the year in the United States when tornadoes are most likely to happen.
(Manhattan, KS after a tornado - fema.gov)
Over 75% of the world’s tornadoes occur in the USA. An average of about 1200 happen here per year, including category EF0 tornadoes. Canada is second with 5%, and Bangladesh is third.
Tornadoes in the USA and Canada are assigned an “EF” value. That stands for “Enhanced Fujita”, and the scale estimates the power of a tornado based on damage to structures that would “typically” be caused by winds of certain speeds. The following are the EF values and their corresponding estimated maximum 3 second wind gusts:
(An EF 5 tornado is very rare, with only about 0.1% of all tornadoes being estimated as EF 5.)
The state with the most tornadoes per year is Texas, followed by Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida. That’s not adjusted for size, though, and the number of tornadoes per square mile is highest in Florida. Tornadoes have been reported in every state, and on every continent except Antarctica.
(Parker, FL - parkerpolice.org)
A tornado watch means watch out, conditions are right for the possible formation of tornadoes.
A tornado warning means WARNING! A tornado has actually been spotted or radar indicated circulation that could spawn a tornado in the area.
(Funnel cloud in Oakbrook, IL- abc7chicago.com)
A funnel cloud doesn’t become a tornado unless it touches the ground. A waterspout is a rotating cloud over water. Waterspouts can be either tornadic waterspouts, or fair weather waterspouts. Although they are dangerous, they tend to be weaker than tornadoes. Florida is the waterspout capital of the world, with approximately 500 forming per year. Waterspouts usually dissipate when they reach land, however, if they are associated with thunderstorms they may come on land and cause damage.
(Waterspout in Punta Gorda, FL - Wikipedia.org)
While tornadoes can occur at any time, May is normally the month with the highest number reported in the United States. June is the next most common month for tornadoes. Here’s a rather fun link showing average numbers of tornadoes in the USA by state, and by month.
In Case of Emergency - Tornado Safety Tips
Best case scenario, you have a basement to take shelter away from windows and under a sturdy object like a table. If a mattress or sleeping bag is available, use this to cover yourself to offer additional protection. Keep in mind where heavy objects are located on the floor above you, like the refrigerator or bath tub and stay clear of these objects.
If a basement is not an option, take shelter on the lowest level in the central location of the house with no windows. A bathroom or closet are generally good options. Cover your self with a mattress or comforter to protect against fallen debris.
If you are in an office building, hospital, or sky scraper you should take cover in an enclosed room with no windows on the lowest level and center of the building. Stairwells are typically the safest location in these types of buildings and allow you to get to the lower level safely. Do not take the elevator during a tornado. The same would apply for any public buildings like churches, shopping malls, or theaters. The best thing to do in this situation is not to panic, and to follow the flow of people to a safe location.
Luckily, schools often partake in tornado drills to ensure students know what to do in an emergency. Students are typically evacuated to interior rooms with no windows and told to crouch down on the floor and cover the back of their head.
Mobile homes and vehicles are extremely dangerous during a tornado. The best thing to do in this instance is to get away and find shelter in a sturdy building or underground and follow the steps mentioned. If you are not able to seek shelter and are stuck outdoors you should lie face down on low ground and cover the back of your head with your arms.
Make Your Emergency Plan Today
It is also a good idea to have an emergency plan in place which should include a way to receive weather alerts, what to do in case of a tornado emergency, emergency contact information for family members, and a place to meet. Everyone in your family should also be aware of the plan and practicing is a great idea, especially for children. Don't forget about your pets in the plan either! Here is a great resource to help you prepare an emergency plan from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
(Safety information compiled from - www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html)
For more information on tornado safety, visit ready.gov/tornadoes