As we enter March, we also enter meteorological spring, and severe weather season in the midwest. We may have a layer of snow and ice on the ground today, but this is the time to begin thinking about what you'd do if you found yourself in the path of a destructive thunderstorm or a potential tornado. The moment that you are staring down a tornado on your front porch is *not* the time to begin thinking about what you and your family should do.
This dramatic video from Washington, Illinois on November 17th 2013, illustrates this point perfectly. Look at the time stamp on the video. How long is it between the moment that he begins filming to the moment that his house is impacted by this devastating tornado that essentially wipes out his neighborhood? Maybe 45-50 seconds?
Is 45 seconds long enough for you and your family to develop an extensive plan on how you'd act to save your lives?
Here is an excerpt from the Storm Prediction Center FAQ section on having a plan in place before severe weather strikes:
"Prevention and practice before the storm: At home, have a family tornado plan in place, based on the kind of dwelling you live in and the safety tips below. Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds, and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year. Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster. Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds' notice. When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Turn on local TV, radio or NOAA Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings. Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you! If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where there are bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelter areas away from windows, and the shortest ways to get there. All administrators of schools, shopping centers, nursing homes, hospitals, sports arenas, stadiums, mobile home communities and offices should have a tornado safety plan in place, with easy-to-read signs posted to direct everyone to a safe, closeby shelter area. Schools and office building managers should regularly run well-coordinated drills. If you are planning to build a house, especially east of the Rockies, consider an underground tornado shelter or an interior "safe room"."
Sophie and I took the statewide tornado drill this morning to begin discussing having a "safe area" to take some of the scary out of the 100 year old basement. It's as easy as dusting off some chairs and having some safety supplies (extra flashlights, a radio, shoes, etc) in place so that you don't have to play hunter/gatherer when it is time to act. As a storm chaser, I don't often find myself at home when severe weather strikes the area, but complacency is the last thing I want for my family. We have a weather radio in our home, and it has woken me up in the middle of the night with a Tornado Warning before which is worth the $20 alone. And even if I am not home, knowing the weather radio is there and we have a safe place for her and anyone else who is home at the time to comfortably and quickly take shelter will provide peace of mind as we enter this volatile weather season.
Storm Prediction Center FAQ: http://www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/safety.html