Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes typically come with little to no warning, and thus provide very little time to prepare. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA), from 1985 to 2014 the United States has averaged 1,141 tornadoes per year, with New York State averaging 10 tornadoes per year. Tornadoes are numerically measured using the Fujita Scale (EF), which is based upon sustained wind speeds (see Figure 1). Additionally, The National Weather Service issues tornado watches and tornado warnings when a tornado is possibility in your area.
Tornado watch - Issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms and/or multiple tornadoes to form in or around the area
Tornado warning - Issued by the National Weather Service when a tornado has been sighted or indicated in the warning area
Actions to take leading up to and during a tornado
- Take tornado watches very seriously and monitor the weather closely during the warning period
- Cancel outdoor activities and move indoors
- During a tornado, immediately move to an interior hallway and to the lowest level in the middle of the building
- Stay away from all windows and glass doors
- DO NOT use the elevators
- Close and lock all windows and exterior doors
Actions to take if you are in a vehicle during a tornado
- If driving, turn out of the direction of the tornado, preferably at a 90 degree angle. It is difficult to outrun a tornado so be sure to evaluate the situation constantly.
- If not possible to out run the tornado, immediately get out of your car and find the nearest building or storm shelter, and take shelter in the middle of the building on the lowest level.
- If no shelter is immediately available, get out of your vehicle and lie down in a low level area. It is unsafe to stay in a vehicle or to go under a vehicle.
Actions to take if you are outside during a tornado:
- Find shelter immediately
- If no shelter is available, find the nearest low-level ditch and lie flat with your hands covering your head
- Do not seek shelter under a bridge or overpass
- Beware of flying debris
- Beware of fallen power lines and other damaged utilities (such as gas lines)
- Do not return to any damaged buildings and/or homes until authorities say it is safe to do so
Fujita Scale (Figure 1)
For more information on Tornado Preparedness check out this NOOA guide, http://www.weather.gov/media/ilx/Preparedness/Tornado Safety.pdf