Storm Brewing? Timely Tips For Dealing With Life In A Tornado Zone

For residents of many areas of the country, the appearance of a dark funnel cloud in the sky is a terrifying reminder of the awesome power of nature. One of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history struck down in Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011. When the storm lifted, the small mid-western city had suffered 161 fatalities, more than a thousand casualties and the destruction of much of its city, including homes, schools and hospitals.

While there is no way to predict exactly when or where these storms will occur, certain areas of the country experience them more frequently than others. If your family lives in one of these tornado zones, here are some timely tips designed to help you stay safe, both during and after the storm.

Before the Storm Season Arrives

Keeping family members safe when severe weather threatens is easiest when there is a good plan to follow. This plan should be memorized by all family members and should include the following basic details:

  • Contact information for all family members, including school, work and cell numbers
  • A designated family meeting place in an easily accessible location
  • The assignment of a parent or older sibling to be responsible for contacting and picking up each young child and taking them to safety
  • Access to a safe shelter, such as a basement, cellar, or pre-fabricated storm shelter or a nearby public shelter. 

Preparing the Shelter

When the time comes to seek shelter from severe weather, having a few basic comforts waiting in the shelter can help family members deal with the stressful nature of the situation. Consider collecting these items and storing them in a waterproof tote in the area where you will seek shelter. These items include: 

  • Bottled water, non-perishable snacks such as jerky, granola bars, crackers and nuts
  • Inexpensive flashlights and a supply of batteries
  • Thin sleeping mats or rugs and a blanket
  • Battery operated weather radio
  • Small first aid kit
  • Diapers, wipes and powdered or canned formula if there are infants in the family
  • Pet supplies, including a leash and water bowl
  • Prescription medications
  • A pin-coded flash drive with copies of important family documents, such as birth certificates, insurance papers, and identification
  • A five gallon bucket, a small bag of sawdust and a supply of plastic trash bags to make an emergency toilet 
  • A cell phone, with fully charged battery

When Tornadoes and Severe Storm Alerts are Issued

Once a tornado or severe storm is known to be in the area, gather the family members together and prepare to move to the shelter location. If time permits, consider turning off water and gas service to the home and turning the power off at the electrical panel. Make everyone as comfortable as possible in the shelter and make sure that no one is allowed to leave until the storm is over. 

After the Storm Has Passed

Since torrential rain, lightning and high wind often accompany tornadoes, be prepared to stay in the shelter until these conditions subside, if possible. When the time comes to venture outside the shelter, be careful to watch for broken glass, downed electrical lines and sharp objects. 

If your home, car or property has been damaged, alert your insurance agent, and any emergency services or utility services personnel that might be necessary to deal with possible gas line breaks, fires, or electrical issues. 

Repairing the Damage

Storm damaged structures receive extreme stress from the pressure of the tornado, excessive wind and rain. Supporting beams, rafters and studs can be weakened or cracked, even when they appear to be unharmed. To insure that your home is safe for occupancy after it is subjected to this type of weather, consider having it inspected by a reputable storm damage repair professional. They have the training and tools needed to examine these structures and make sure they are safe for your family to occupy.