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Friday, February 20, 2009

Tornadoes

The following post was borrowed from Trick James over at the Nebraska Preppers Network site. But I think a lot of this information is also important for Kansas.---MCK-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I am posting some information about tornadoes because I darn near got killed by one in 1999. In Nebraska they are one of our most serious weather threats. Ten seconds was the all difference for me between life or death. I dove into the basement stairwell just before it hit. When I looked up the house was gone- the debris spread out for 3/4 mile.
I am a volunteer fireman and storm spotter. Our busiest time in Central Nebraska is in the spring and early summer mostly in the early evening hours. The way it works is the spotters monitor suspicious cloud formations from strategic locations and radio in observed tornadic activity into the local communications center who in turn activate the sirens. When spotters are not out, as is sometimes the case this whole process is delayed. The communication center is in contact with the national weather service who in turn relay to the news media. Does that sound like a lot of middle men? Well it is. Twelve minutes after the above mentioned incident The tornado sirens were activated, a little bit to late from my perspective. Tornadoes strike fast and sometimes it is raining and or hailing so hard that nothing can be observed anyway and you just have to go by the weather service warning and seek shelter.My pre-tornado advice. Have a plan in place for your family. Try to cover all the bases, like what to do when your family members are in different locations, what if the phone service or electricity is out. Have someone from a distant area appointed as a contact person. Grand Island was hit hard in 1980 http://www.gitwisters.com/We were in Indiana at the time and did not know if my parents were alive or dead. We did not have any plan in place to call anyone. Have a shelter or place to go. When the weather is stormy pay attention to the cattle and horses as they sense a storm is coming and tend to bunch up in a sheltered corner Keep an eye in the sky and watch if it gets bad. If in the city or countryside have the radio on to advise you about tornado warnings and touch downs. Most of our tornadoes come from the south west moving north east. If the town SW of you is getting hit get your butt in a shelter-it's coming your way. One thing about most tornadoes is that it hits and then it is gone, Grand Island was an exception, see the link above. Then the clean up begins. If a large area gets hit you will have to depend on others because everything you own is gone or destroyed. All you have left is what is in your shelter. You better have a large network of friends and relatives and good homeowners insurance. But hey if you are still alive and uninjured you can rebuild. Around here the local volunteer fire departments have mutual aid networks that come to the aid of victims.
The following comes from FEMA's web site http://www.fema.gov/hazard/tornado/index.shtm
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.
Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
The following are facts about tornadoes:
They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 MPH, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH.
Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., but can occur at any time.

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