Apr 08

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Tornadoes have occurred in every state in the United States. Tornadoes have occurred in the United States during every month of the year.  These destructive forces can leave a path of devastation across many miles or they can seemingly bounce and skip across the landscape leaving one home untouched destroying the neighboring home.

Storm systems capable of producing tornadoes for our region form most often in the spring and summer months but can occur at any time of the year.tornado3
Tornadoes have touched down in Estill County, perhaps the most notable of which was the June 9, 1961 tornado that caused a great deal of damage and injured many people.

Tornadoes are one of nature’s most powerful forces but if you are aware of the situation and know the things you should and should not do, you can increase your chances of surviving even the deadliest storms.

Be aware of the situation

You don’t have to be a weather bug to be aware of dangerous weather conditions.  If conditions seem to be worsening there are quite a few different things you can do to make yourself aware of local dangers:

  • Check local news stations for watches and warnings. Local news stations broadcasting in the area normally post watches and warning symbols independent of the time or programming.
  • A weather radio is always a good idea.  Although tornadoes are more likely to occur during daylight hours, they can happen at any time.  Most weather radios have a battery backup in case power fails during a storm.  A basic weather radio is an inexpensive way to keep yourself informed, even if you are asleep.
  • The Internet – There are many weather websites out there. Most have some method to contact you if you would like weatheralerts.  Some are e-mail based, some are text message based, and others browser based.  This method can be a valuable asset but is not the most reliable way to stay informed of dangerous weather conditions since power, cable, and/or phone service could be lost during a severe storm.

Approaching tornadoes often have distinct characteristics. Aside from actually seeing a tornado on the ground, there are often signs associated with tornadoes that one should be aware of. Some or perhaps all of the following characteristics could be associated with an approaching tornado.  (From NOAA)

  • Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base –tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift.  Some tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
  • Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.
  • Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
  • Night – Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

Know what action to take

This step not only includes knowing what to do when you are in your own home, but also includes knowing the best course of action no matter where you are.  As with anything else in life there has been myths and downright bad information associated with tornado safety throughout the years.  For example, it has been said that opening windows in your house will help stabilize the pressure and perhaps save your roof from being blown off and possibly save your entire house.  I have personally heard this myth as I am sure many of you have.  DO NOT open windows in your house. It could be dangerous with severe winds outside and the act has not been proven to be effective. Opening windows during a tornado warning or possible tornado would only serve to waste valuable time that would be better spent seeking a safe place to shelter.  The statement that opening windows can help protect the roof of your house or the entire house is a myth. A tornado will be carrying debris such as gravel, earth, tree limbs, and many other types of debris at speeds of at least 75 mph in even a weak tornado that will almost certainly break the windows out if your home is directly hit anyway.  Check out this link to NOAA’s TornadoFAQ (outside link) to find out a great deal more about tornadoes in general as well as some of the myths and misconceptions associated with them.

  • What should I do if I am at home when a tornado is approaching?
  • What should I do if I am at work when a tornado is approaching?
  • What should I do if I am at school when a tornado is approaching?
  • What should I do if I am outdoors when a tornado is approaching?
  • What should I do if I am in a car when a tornado is approaching?

Take Action Quickly

Even though tornado prediction and warning methods are much better now than in the past, the identification of a possible tornado is tricky and ever-changing as the storm itself changes.  This means that you may have a very limited amount of time to reach the best shelter area whether it be in your home or somewhere else.   Don’t do anything to waste precious time when a tornado is approaching.

What should I do if a tornado has affected my home or my shelter?

From NOAA’s Tornado Safety Page: adapted for Estill County.

  • Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel. If you have a working land line or cell phone please call 911for emergency or life-threatening situations.  If you and your family are safe but need help please call Estill County Dispatch’s non-emergency phone number at (606) 723-2201.  Please be patient, if your home was affected, the chances are that other homes and families in the area were also affected and phone lines could be tied up.
  • If possible, carefully render aid to those who are injured.
  • !!! Stay away from downed power lines.  They could still have electricity running through them!!!
  • Avoid dangerous debris left in the wake of the storm.  Broken glass, exposed nails and other sharp objects will most likely be strewn around.
  • Stay away from any heavily damaged homes or structures. They could collapse at any time.
  • Do not use matches, lighters, or open flames. Natural gas lines could be broken in the area and could ignite.  Although natural gas as we normally come in contact with it has a distinctive smell, when natural gas passes through the soil and sometimes other materials, the odorant can be stripped from the gas making it virtually impossible to detect without proper instruments.
  • Remain calm and alert.  Listen to emergency responders on the scene and information or announcements from local officials.

Other Tornado Related Information

NOAA’s Tornado Information
VORTEX: Unraveling the Secrets (NOAA Quest Series Java or Javascript required)
The Online Tornado FAQ (NOAA)
Tornado Safety (NOAA)
Getting Started in Tornado and Thunderstorm Spotting by Keith Brewster, N0IAW
The Tornado Project Online
Build Your Own Tornado Simulator (The Tornado Project Online)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) website as well as the Tornado Project Online’s website below has volumes of information about tornadoes, tornado safety, tornado stories, and much more.

Permanent link to this article: http://estillcountyema.net/tornadoes/