While springtime means longer days, more sunlight, and warmer weather, it’s also the height of tornado season. The 2015 tornado “season” got off to a slower-than-usual start with a relatively quiet March, the official start of the season. That is, until March 25th, when a round of severe thunderstorms struck portions of Oklahoma and Arkansas, spawning 8 tornadoes with one death reported.
On average, tornadoes kill about 70 Americans each year, and injure another 1,500. By that measure, last year’s tornado season was somewhat mild. In 2014, there were 888 confirmed tornadoes in the U.S., with 47 fatalities, a slight decrease from the previous year (2013 stats: 907 confirmed tornadoes with 55 deaths).
Tornadoes are measured by the Enhanced Fujita Scale, ranging from EF0 – EF5. View the scale here.
So does a slow start to the season mean it will be a relatively mild one? Not necessarily. In 2004, for example, the tornado season started off much the same way, but went on to produce a record 1,819 tornadoes, including 509 in May, and 476 in August and September.
While tornadoes can occur at any time of the year, the traditional period of peak activity is from March through early July. And while tornadoes can touch down just about anywhere in North America, they are most likely to occur in the area known as “Tornado Alley,” which runs roughly through the Central Plains from Texas to Nebraska. Within that area, Texas has the highest number of tornadoes, with an average of 124 each year.
The Red Cross offers these important tornado preparedness tips:
- During any storm, listen to local news or a weather radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
- Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes. Check with your carrier to see if your cell phone can give you alerts.
- Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
- Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
- Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the FEMA web site.
- Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
- Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
- Watch for tornado danger signs:
̶ Dark, often greenish clouds – a phenomenon caused by hail
̶ Wall cloud – an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
̶ Cloud of debris
̶ Large hail
̶ Funnel cloud – a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
̶ Roaring noise
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