It’s that time of the year again…when the risk of a tornado increases. Many in West Michigan experienced damaging storms this past weekend with sustained winds rivaling an EF-0 (75-85 mph). Many thought it had to have been a tornado that ripped through Muskegon and Northern Kent Counties, but it was confirmed to be strong straight line winds by the National Weather Service. Nevertheless, this strong Spring storm produced widespread damage and left about 100,000 without power.
About 1,000 tornadoes occur each year in the United States, causing an average of 80 deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage. Tornadoes vary in intensity and the accompanying damage can result in everything from minor repairs to complete destruction. Most tornadoes are relatively weak and therefore primarily damage roofs, windows and trees. While only 2% of tornadoes achieve the most violent and damaging classification (EF5), 25% of tornadoes are powerful enough to cause 67% of the deaths and 90% of the damage. An EF5 tornado can generate maximum wind speeds of greater than 250 mph, which is enough to destroy most buildings and structures in its path. These maximum wind speeds generate forces that are about twice as strong as those generated by the strongest hurricanes.
Watches and Warnings
A tornado watch is a caution indicating a high probability of tornadoes within an area approximately 250 miles long and 120 miles wide.
A tornado warning means that a tornado has been spotted on the ground in your county or is moving toward your county, or that weather radar indicates a high probability of a tornado existing.
While the following precautions focus specifically on tornado risks, many will also help protect those of you who live outside of tornado-prone regions from other types of high wind and thunderstorm-related weather risks.
Assess the Likelihood of a Tornado Striking Your Area
Is the area where you live and work prone to tornadoes? Knowing what tornado risks are present is essential for choosing the appropriate mix of measures to protect you and your family. If you are located in an area with a heightened tornado risk, you should review the following steps and take the necessary precautions to minimize your risk of tornado damage:
Protect Your Family and Employees
– Prepare and disseminate an emergency plan describing what everyone should do when a tornado threatens. Practice these procedures through tornado drills.
– Purchase a weather radio with local discrimination capability. Monitor weather conditions so everyone can be moved to secure locations when necessary.
– Have an adequate source of weather information, such as a tone alert weather radio, to keep abreast of weather conditions.
– Have someone monitor local radar and warning information during a tornado watch and especially if a tornado warning has been issued for the area.
– Keep exterior doors and windows closed to minimize rain and flying debris. Closing interior doors will also help to compartmentalize the building and provide more barriers between occupants and the storm.
– Select the best protective area for everyone to seek shelter. Basements are usually considered a good area, as are corridors and small interior rooms on the first floor of a structure.
– Never shelter anyone in rooms where there is an outside wall, particularly those with glass windows, or where the ceiling or roof has a span between supports of more than 40 feet.
– If your building does not provide adequate protection and you are located in a tornado-prone area, work with a contractor to harden a section of your facility or build a safe room.
– Make provisions to shelter everyone in portable outbuildings and those operating trucks and other vehicles off premises.
Protect Your Property
Wind-resistant construction can be cost effective and minimize the risk of structural damage for the majority of tornadoes, particularly damage from weak to moderate tornadoes, hail and wind associated with thunderstorms, and even to buildings on the edge of strong or violent tornadoes.
Minimize the Threats From Wind-Borne Debris
– Identify and remove trees and branches that could fall on your buildings or power lines.
– Inspect and repair loose or damaged building components such as siding, soffit and fascia, shingles and roofing, brickwork, and brick chimneys.
– Avoid using built-up roofs with aggregate or pavers on the surface.
For further information on tornadoes, safe rooms and more, visit the website: www.DisasterSafety.org/tornado