It’s heartbreaking what happened in Moore, Oklahoma last week. An EF5-rated tornado packing 200 mph winds destroyed much of the town including two schools. One of those schools miraculously had no casualties.
The other was the scene of at least 20 young deaths. For whatever reason, these storms seem to be more violent. Or maybe we humans have crowded ourselves into corridors where tornadoes are prevalent. Moore was also struck by a killer tornado in 1999.
Around these parts tornadoes are not as big a threat but they aren’t unusual either. And killer tornadoes have passed through here, too. In the late 1940s a tornado killed three people in the Old Salem community when it crossed from west to east almost parallel to the Havana-Quincy Highway. And in the 1970’s a tornado destroyed a home and killed a woman on C.R. 12 east of Havana. We’ve also had many structures damaged and destroyed by tornadoes over the years.
Tornadoes are bruisers that typically have a narrow footprint. They are isolated, unlike hurricanes that cover wide areas, and destroy practically anything in their path. Houses are reduced to splinters and automobiles are flung around like toys, all creating a dangerous environment for humans.
Newer homes are built to withstand strong winds, which includes most hurricanes, but nothing can totally withstand a direct tornado strike. Tornadoes form quickly, descending from the clouds to wreak havoc, then disappear. They can skip for miles, potentially destroying lives and property every time they hit the ground.
In tornado alley – the Midwest and Plains – people build basements or reinforced safe rooms for protection. But many live in older homes or can’t afford the added protection. They have to seek shelter as best they can on short notice, and hope for the best.
There are certain steps to take when a tornado approaches that enhance our safety odds. The following tips are provided by Florida Family Insurance:
A Tornado Watch is advised by the National Weather Service to alert you to the possibility of a tornado. You will want to stay tuned to local news reports for changing conditions.
A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been sighted near your location. Seek shelter immediately and listen closely for weather updates.
During tornado season (March – August), keep your emergency kit supplied with fresh batteries.
Familiarize your family with the locations of designated public shelters.
If your home does not have a basement, take shelter in a bathroom or closet nearest to the center of the home. Use a blanket or mattress for additional protection.
Stay clear of areas with windows, skylights and glass doors.
If you are outdoors, find the closest low point (such as a ditch), lie face down and cover your head.
If you are driving, pull over safely and immediately get out of the car! If possible, take cover close to a sturdy structure, or lie down in a low area and cover your head.