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Health and Fitness News

Tornado Threat

How you can prepare for nature’s deadliest storm.

Tornadoes come with little warning and leave a path of destruction in their wake. Communities are leveled and lives lost in an instant. Touching down on every continent except Antarctica, tornadoes are most common in North America, Argentina, and Bangladesh. If you happen to live in an area that sees tornadoes, you need to know how to protect yourself and your family from harm.

What are tornadoes and how can you stay safe when you’re under a watch or warning? Keep reading to find out.

Rotating Air

If you’ve seen a picture of a tornado, you know they are made of a narrow, twisting column of air that extends from the bottom of a thunderstorm cloud down to the ground. Since air is invisible, the only way you can see a tornado funnel cloud is if it’s made up of water, debri, and dust particles.

Much mystery still surrounds the formation of tornadoes. It’s believed they form from rotating winds in a large thunderstorm supercell. When warm, humid air hits cold, dry air, the combination creates an updraft of rotating wind. As the rotating updraft pulls in more warm air, the speed of rotation increases. Cool air in the atmosphere continually feeds more energy into the storm. The funnel of rotating air grows and descends toward the ground, forming a tornado. Supercell thunderstorms can also be accompanied by hail, strong winds, flash flooding, and frequent lighting.

Rating a Tornado

The strength of a tornado varies. Some down a few trees and rip off roofing, while others completely level entire neighborhoods. A tornado’s strength is rated based on its wind speed and the damage it left behind. By surveying the damage, an investigator uses the EF-Scale to measure damage based on trees, structure damage, and the type of building damaged. The scale ranges from visible damage due to 65 mile-per-hour winds to complete destruction from winds that reach up to 200 miles per hour.

Watch or Warning

Weather meteorologists constantly keep an eye out for dangerous storms. When conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado, a watch is issued. At this point, no funnel clouds have been detected, but they are possible. A weather watch means it’s important to watch for weather warnings and be prepared to take action.

A tornado warning, however, is issued by the weather service when a tornado has been spotted or indicated by the radar. A warning in your area means it’s time to take immediate action to find safe shelter.

Find Shelter

When a tornado warning is issued, take shelter in a sturdy building. You are safest in the innermost room in the building on the lowest level of the building. If you have a basement, go there. If not, shelter in an interior room away from windows, exterior walls, and doors. Keep pets nearby if you have time. Cover your head and neck with your arms, sturdy furniture, or blankets to protect yourself from flying debri. Keep a weather radio with you that tracks storms and alerts.

You should also find shelter if a storm approaches while you’re outside. Sheds, tents, and underpasses are not safe. Nor are you safe in a car. If you can’t find shelter in a sturdy building, lie down in a ditch or ravine.

Know the Signs

Besides seeing a spinning funnel cloud or incoming cloud of debri, signs of a tornado include a loud roar, which is often described as the sound of a freight train. Right before a tornado hits, the air may become still and the wind may die down.