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Severe Weather Awareness: Tornado Safety

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Tis the season for tornados— and scientists have reason to believe that Spring 2009 may be the most active tornado season in ten years.

Meteorologists have been tracking the patterns of large weather makers from the ice storms and other severe weather this past winter to now. Brian Barnes of StormChase.com, a private storm tracker company, made a statement in February claiming, “Based on climate data, I suspect that this is going to be an extremely busy storm season and the tornado threat will be intense this spring.” (PRLog Press Release)

So what does that mean for college students living on campus? It means be prepared. Severe storms cause on average 70-80 fatalities and 1,500 injuries per year. (NOAA) It is important while on campus to maintain heightened awareness during the peak months of tornado season.

Tornado Awareness – Know the Signs

I often picture spring as a boxing match between summer hot and winter cold. Powerful streams of warm air flow toward the ground and cool air remains aloft creating updrafts. These updrafts generate fluctuating energy that fuels tornadic activity in the atmosphere.

How to Spot Tornadic Activity:

1. Tornados develop when the weather is unusually warm and humid for the season, with southerly winds.

2. Sky may turn a greenish color an hour or two before the storm.

3. Tornados are typically produced by downward bulging clouds that are black and low to the ground – wall cloud.

4. Clouds may begin to rotate horizontally – barrel cloud.

5. Funnel clouds look like twisted rope that lengthens down from the bottom of the thundercloud.

6. The presence of a tornado is often preceded by large hail.

7. Once tornados have touched the ground, they produce a sound that is similar to the howl of diesel train or a turbine engine.

Stay Informed

Staying informed of the situation around you is extremely important. If you know your town has been advised of a severe thunderstorm warning or tornado watch, tune into NOAA Weather Radio, check news and weather on the internet or television regularly to stay on top of the storm developments in your area. Also be aware of campus emergency procedures and shelter areas in your dorm or on campus. If the storm worsens, it may be wise to stay near shelter areas in case of a tornado warning.

Remember, if your area is under a tornado warning, it means that a funnel cloud was spotted somewhere within the general vicinity of your county. Also, be alert to tornado alarms which indicate funnel cloud(s) have been spotted somewhere within the general vicinity of your town.

Do not leave your shelter until “all-clear” alarms are sounded.

Have a Plan

The most effective thing that you can do in the event of severe weather like tornados on campus is readiness, especially now as the risk for storms has increased.

Know the following:

1. What you are going to do.

2. Where you are going to go.

3. What you are going to need.

4. How you’re going to get there from inside points and outside points. (Also have a plan for where to go if you are stuck outdoors.)

Nature is not a thing to be trifled with, and those that have experienced the fury of these storms can attest. Know the signs. Stay Informed. Have a Plan.

P.S. DO NOT play storm chaser!

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