The good news about living in Tornado Alley, where most twisters occur in April, May and June, is that you can have safety plans and necessities in place before the weather gets dicey.
Preparations range from storing supplies in a designated area to installing a storm shelter.
Last year was one of the worst in state history with 149 recorded tornadoes. Rick Smith, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oklahoma, says that while there’s no way to know how this season will end up, “it’s a guarantee that we will have tornadoes in Oklahoma this spring. The exact number doesn’t matter that much because it only takes one to make it a bad year for tornadoes for you.”
Smith says that the time to get ready for a tornado is right now, not when storms approach.
“Just a little bit of planning and preparation on a sunny day will help you and your family be ready when storms threaten,” he says.
It’s important to know where to go during a tornado warning, says Smith, who advises practicing going there with your family quickly. Have several different means to hear the warnings, and plan for ways to receive those warnings if you’re sleeping or the power is out.
Atlas Safe Rooms builds and installs modular, above-ground storm shelters and safe rooms with locations in Joplin, Tulsa and Norman. Office manager Lauren Bush says every household should already have the following items collected in a safe area prior to storms:
a first-aid kid and medications;
- flashlights with batteries or battery-powered lamps;
- shoes for everyone;
- water and non-perishable food;
- mobile phones with portable chargers;
- a multi-purpose tool;
- emergency blankets;
- cash and copies of personal documents.
“Being based in Joplin, Missouri, we know firsthand how critical it is to have a safe and trusted place to go for shelter during a tornado or other severe weather,” says Bush.
When a storm is upon you and you are at home, go to your storm shelter or basement. If you don’t have either, go to a small, windowless interior room, such as a closet, inner hallway or bathroom. Go to the center of that room. If there is a heavy piece of furniture there, get under it.
If you are at school, work or another facility, go to a basement (if there is one) or an inner hallway. Try to get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
If you are outside when a storm hits, get inside the nearest building. If there are no buildings, try to find a ditch or low area; get in it and protect your head with your arms. Never try to outrun a tornado when you are in a vehicle.
“We have a lot of storms here in Oklahoma, but we also have the very best weather information system in the country,” Smith says. “Meteorologists … work hard to let you know when tornadoes might happen. It’s up to you to pay attention to that information, to be ready and to take action to keep you and your family safe.”