For those living on the West Coast, specifically in the southern regions, life really is luxurious. Gorgeous sunny days make up the weather norm between mid-June and September, sometimes even running into October. Sunburns, allergies and mosquitoes are the only real annoyances provided by Mother Nature. But outside of the easy living of the West Coast, there are far more dangerous weather threats-primarily tornados.
Tornados predominantly plague the Midwest, wreaking most havoc in the Great Plains states. Tornados are classified into one of six types, as organized by the Fujita Scale. The Fujita Scale ranges from type F1 to F6, F1 having enough power to take roofs off houses and overturn cars, and F6 being a mythological terror with the power to level everything in its path, and then some.
With the annual prediction for tornados being 1000 per year in the Great Plains (42% of which are either F4 or F5 type), here are the best ways you can protect yourself and loved ones if a tornado's path should include your neighborhood.
The most common tornado warning signs are elements of extreme weather. Hail, heavy rain, dust spiraling near the ground, thunderstorms and prominent cloud base rotations all point towards a tornado on the way.
Whether these weather patterns are seen alone or in some combination together, turn on a local radio news station or television channel to see if there are warnings of a tornado. If you don't have access to either, call someone who does-it's extremely important you take precautions to stay safe under tornado conditions.
If you have a basement, this is where you should head after a tornado warning is announced. Try to locate yourself under an area of the house where there are no heavy objects or pieces of furniture that could drop through the ceiling during the storm-i.e. pianos, living room furniture etc. Try to find something heavy and sturdy to cover yourself with; a mattress works best, but sleeping bags and heavy blankets or jackets could be used if a mattress is not available.
If you don't have a basement, take shelter in a stairwell or bathroom-somewhere that is structurally sound and least likely to collapse if the storm takes down parts of the house. If you are in a mobile home, get out! Mobile homes are easily torn apart, or tossed in strong tornados, at the least it is likely it will be overturned in a weaker storm. If you are driving and see the tornado from a distance, you may be able to outrun it and get into safe territory. If you're caught by surprise, try to find a low, flat area and lie on the ground, facedown and cover your head. Avoid bridges and shanty buildings! These are likely to collapse or blow over during a storm.
Mother Nature is still the most powerful and unpredictable force on the planet, and when she's moody we have to be prepared. Tornados and strong storms are no joke, so take precautions and be alert. After all, we can't always be as lucky as Dorothy and Toto.