In April 2011, we witnessed 312 tornadoes in one week and 226 tornadoes in just one day. These tornadoes were the cause of more than 300 fatalities, and billions of dollars in property damage. A massive tornado, nearly a mile wide, totally destroyed a small Iowa city earlier in the same month. Almost one month later, Joplin, Missouri was hit by one of 68 tornadoes that occurred on a single day. Recent reports estimated fatalities at 154.
While tornadoes are a weather event experienced throughout the world, nowhere are tornadoes more prevalent than in North America. Warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico moves north and meets the cool dry air moving south from Canada, setting up ideal conditions for tornadoes to form. In an average year, approximately 800 tornadoes are reported in the United States. AIR Worldwide, the scientific leader of catastrophe risk modeling, has estimated that insured losses from the April tornadoes will ultimately total $5.5 billion. Add the damage from Joplin, Mo. and the total for a period of just one month rises to $9 billion.
Weather forecasting is not an exact science, and effective warning systems are not always available. Staying informed about weather systems and knowing the signs of a tornado can save your life. Here are some things to look and listen for:
- Strong rotation in the cloud base
- Swirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base, however sometimes there is no visible funnel
- Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or intense wind shift
- Loud continuous rumble or roar that doesn’t fade away in a few seconds
- Small bright flashes at ground level as electric lines are snapped by strong winds
Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds and practice a family tornado drill, especially when small children are involved. Get in the basement under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Be sure to have a radio or a NOAH Weather Radio, as well as a communication device like a cell phone. Have a predetermined place to meet when it is safe.
In a structure with no basement, go to the lowest floor. Seek shelter in a small center room or interior hallway. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding to protect against falling debris. Try to avoid windows. If you are in a mobile home, leave immediately and seek safe shelter. If safe shelter cannot be located, find a depression and lie flat covering your head with your arms.
Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground, lie flat and face down, protecting the back of your head with your arms.
- Myth – Opening windows equalizes pressure and reduces the chance for serious damage.
- Fact – This is perhaps the best-known myth. Opening windows guarantees that damaging winds will enter the structure doing even more damage. Leave your windows alone and immediately go to a safe place.
- Myth – The low pressure of the tornado causes buildings to explode as it passes overhead.
- Fact – Buildings are mostly damaged by wind and debris hitting their surfaces.
- Myth – I live in a big city and tornadoes don’t hit big cities.
- Fact – Tornadoes have hit many large cities including Dallas and Miami.
To find out whether you have sufficient coverage, we recommend you contact Hubbard Insurance Agency so that we can have a Rocky River personal home insurance agent meet with you at a time and place that works with your schedule. You are under no obligation to retain coverage through Hubbard Insurance Agency, but you can count on our friendly team to do everything we can to help you obtain the maximum amount of coverage at the lowest possible rate. Call a Rocky River personal home insurance agent today.