AS LAST DECEMBER’S DEVASTATING TWISTER in western Kentucky showed, tornadoes can happen in our state any time of the year. Spring, however, marks the official start of tornado season here. Do you know what to do if you’re in a tornado’s path?
If you’re inside a house, shelter in a windowless interior room—such as a closet, center hallway or bathroom—a basement or the lowest level. Stay away from glass doors and windows to avoid wind-blown debris. Crouch down and make yourself the smallest target possible; use your arms to protect your head and neck. If you can, get under a heavy piece of sturdy furniture, like a desk or table. Cover yourself with a blanket, mattress or sleeping bag if there is time.
Other buildings or outdoors
If you’re in a car, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a nearby building or storm shelter. Cars, trailers and mobile homes can easily be swept away by a tornado or high winds. If you can’t reach shelter, heed the following instructions for what to do if you’re outdoors.
Outside, find the lowest ground possible, such as a ditch, ravine or culvert, and cover your head and neck. Be aware of hazards like falling trees or power lines, and lightning. Never seek shelter under an overpass—it puts you at a higher elevation and gives no protection against wind and debris. Do not try to outrun a tornado—drive to the nearest shelter if you can do so safely. If you can’t make it to shelter, either get down in your vehicle and cover your head and neck or leave your vehicle and seek shelter in a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine.
Buildings like malls, gyms and theaters usually are supported only by outside walls, so if you’re in this type of structure in the path of a tornado, go to the lowest level and stay away from windows. If there is no safe shelter spot, get up or under something that protects you against falling debris.
If your area is hit, don’t forget safety in the aftermath: Never touch downed power lines, which could still be live, and report them to your local electric cooperative; stay away from buildings or areas that smell like gas; and if it’s safe to clean up debris or walk near it, wear sturdy boots, long sleeves and gloves.
Signs of a tornado
- Dark green sky.
- Rotating wall cloud.
- Large hail.
- Loud roar, like a freight train.
How to prepare
- Stay tuned to local radio and TV.
- Have a battery-powered radio on hand.
- Monitor your weather radio or weather alert app.
- Have a charged cell phone battery backup.
- Keep an eye on the weather.
- Designate a home shelter and practice with your family.
- Make sure everyone understands your area’s siren warning system.
- Have an emergency kit, including batteries.
- Mark locations of first-aid kit and fire extinguishers.
RODNEY KINCAID is the Safety Manager for Owen Electric Cooperative.