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Tornado & Storm Safety 101

Storm Safety 101

May 18, 2023

Tornado season is upon us!

May weather in Oklahoma can be beautiful -- or rainy and stormy, with twisters showing up fairly often. For those of us who grew up in the Sooner State, we know to be weather aware and what all the watches and warnings mean. But for newcomers to our great state, severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity may be something you’ve never experienced.

One of the absolute best things you can do to prepare for bad weather is to have a plan for your family at home. Choose the safe area to gather when there’s a tornado in your area and go to your safe place when a warning is issued! Stay there until the warning or storm has passed. If you’re lucky, your home has a built-in safe room or shelter, usually in the garage. That’s your safe place in a tornado! Use it.

Here are a few tips from the National Weather Service and other sources to help you make it safely through tornado season. 

  • Know the difference
    • A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a spin-up. If you’re located around the watch area, keep an eye to the sky and listen to local broadcast media for weather news. The watch gives you time to prepare.
    • A tornado warning is issued when an actual tornado has been detected by radar or a reliable report of a tornado has been reported. If there’s a warning, there’s a tornado! Seek shelter immediately.

  • Tornado safety rules
    • During a tornado warning, get as low as you can in an interior space. This might be a closet, bathroom, or storm shelter. Close all doors to the hallway for greater protection. If possible, get under something sturdy like a heavy table. Protect yourself from flying debris with pillows, heavy coats, blankets, or quilts. Use bicycle or motorcycle helmets to protect your head.
    • Avoid windows! 
    • Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible.
    • Don’t wait until you see or hear the tornado. Tornados can be obscured by rainfall or come during the night.

  • Tornado Shelters
    • Many experts now recommend above-ground storm shelters. Some builders add a below-ground shelter in your home’s price automatically, but do your research before deciding what kind of shelter you may want in your new home.

  • If you’re in a vehicle or outdoors
    • If your area is expecting possible tornados, limit outdoor plans or finish them early. Stay close to a sturdy shelter. If caught outside, find shelter in a ditch or remain in your vehicle and cover your head for protection. Do not take shelter under a highway overpass; wind speeds can increase due to the tunneling effect.

  • Stay connected
    • Monitor local weather and news.
    • Have a back-up battery or a way to charge your cell phone.
    • In case of a power outage, have a battery-powered radio.
    • Know the signs of a tornado. Take shelter if you feel you’re in danger.

The main thing in tornado season is to stay weather aware. Broadcast media uses this term all the time, but it’s true. There’s no reason to panic; just be prepared and get to your safe place when the situation warrants.

Keep your eyes and ears open this spring. The skies always have stories to tell! Stay safe!