While springtime means longer days, more sunlight, and warmer weather, it’s also the height of tornado season.
On average, tornadoes kill about 70 Americans each year, and injure another 1,500. According to NOAA statistics (at the time of this writing) the 2017 season has seen 367 confirmed tornadoes so far, with 24 deaths. Many of these tornadoes occurred in January (131), so the season got off to an early and active start.
In 2016, there were 971 confirmed tornadoes in the U.S., with 17 fatalities.
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. Most cell phones now have severe weather alerts.
- Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornadoes, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
- 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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