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Prep 101: How to Prepare for and Survive In Tornado Alley, The Midwest

April 15, 2019 3 min read

*Editors Note: This is part 1 in the series “Prep 101” look for the tag to read the rest.

Let’s talk tornado alley… Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, and South Dakota make up this windy region of the great US (honorable mention goes to Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). Twisters are no stranger to these parts and they come in fast and furious (literally).  

What is a tornado?

A tornado is a thunderstorm that has decided to turn into a violent-rotating column of air. They often have a visible funnel that moves with fury picking up debris from the ground and hurling it in whatever direction it sees fit. They are the ultimate storm, each one is different, and they don’t care about anything that is in their path of destruction.   Tornado watches and warnings are critical since they can strike at any time and in any place. They are abrupt, usually short-lived, and come with rain and darkness. For those of you who live in areas that experience tornadoes, it is essential to plan ahead in order to survive.  

The question is: how do you prepare for these twisty buggers?

First things first – shelter. Knowing where to go for shelter in the event of a tornado is imperative. For example, you may be at home, work, in the car, or at the grocery store when a tornado shows its destructive face. If you don’t have shelters mapped out for any and all of these places you may find yourself in a windy pickle.   Next – educate yourself on the difference between a watch and a warning.   Tornado watch – if the conditions are right and tornadoes are possible, tune into your local radio and television stations for updates.   Tornado warning – this is more official and means that a tornado has been spotted either by human eye or radar. If you are in the area, take shelter immediately.  

Danger signs:

  • Dark, gray-greenish sky
  • Intense hail
  • Freight train sounding roar
  • Low, dark, rotating clouds

If you are in:

A structure or building (home, school, office) – get to the lowest level possible, i.e. the basement or storm cellar. If there is no “lower level,” bathrooms and laundry rooms are your best bet because the walls are reinforced with pipes, which provide a sturdy structure.   A mobile home or trailer – this is a situation where knowing your nearest shelter is key. Mobile homes provide little to no protection against tornadoes.   A vehicle – If possible, drive as far away from the tornado as you can. If you can’t, head to the nearest storm shelter or building and take cover.   Outside – this one is the scariest, but if you’re smart you can survive. Lie as flat as you can, preferably in a ditch and cover your head and neck with your hands. The lower you are to the ground the better.  

What to do after a tornado:

Take extreme precaution when moving from your place of shelter. Damage could easily be waiting on the other side of the doors. Check for gas leaks, loose power lines, and general structural damage. Assessing your surrounding will help keep you and your family safe.   No matter where you live, there will always be unexpected, possibly life threatening, disasters that usually show up unannounced and without warning. Having an emergency kit, food storage, proper shelter, and a plan can be the reason you and your family survive.