April showers can sometimes bring more than May flowers. Beginning in late spring, the United States experiences roughly 1,000 tornadoes annually — more than any other country on Earth. Our friend to the north, Canada, is a distant second with about 100 twisters per year.
While tornadoes can occur anywhere that warm subtropical air meets colder polar air with different speeds and direction, most take place in Florida or in “tornado alley” — an area of tornado-prone land that is situated between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains. The borders of tornado alley have not been officially defined by the National Weather Service, but most maps of the region start in central Texas and go north through Oklahoma, central Kansas and Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, and sometimes turn east to include Midwestern states like Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.
Whether you live in tornado alley or not, it’s still important to prepare yourself and your family for one of nature’s most dangerous events. Read on for tips and advice on surviving severe spring weather.
BEFORE A STORM
Be prepared — Every home should be prepared with an emergency supply kit with enough stock to last three days. Your kit should include:
Develop a family emergency communication plan — In severe weather emergencies, it’s not uncommon for family members to be separated from each other, especially if it’s during the day when adults are at work and children are at school. That’s why it’s critical to develop a plan for getting back together. Ask an out-of-state friend or family member to serve as the family contact. After a tornado or other disastrous event, it is often easier to call out long distance than it is to make local calls. But if the entire family knows to check in with one person who’s not in the local area, everyone can be easily accounted for — whether phone service is working or not.
Make sure your home is ready — Bring in outside items like children’s toys, patio furniture and garbage cans that could turn into dangerous projectiles in severe weather. Also, elevate items in your basement in case of a flood.
Keep fire extinguishers close — Make sure everyone in your household knows how to use them, and how to shut off power, water and gas to your home.
DURING A STORM
Look to the sky — Darkening skies, flashes of lightning and increased winds are all early indicators of a storm’s potential power.
Listen up — Tornado danger signs include a loud roar, similar to that of a freight train.
Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule — After you see a flash of lightning, if you can’t count to 30 before you hear thunder, go inside. Stay indoors 30 minutes after you hear the last roar of thunder.
Get to shelter — Ideal safe places include rooms on the lowest level of a structure without windows, or as far away from the building’s exterior as possible. Think basements, interior hallways, bathrooms and closets.
Monitor the media — Know where storms are and when they could impact your area.
In spring, bad weather often sneaks up on us. But with a little preparation, you can help ensure that you and your family safely weather any storm.