Tornadoes Part 2: Preparation and what to do when one threatens

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- "Goodfellow has the good fortune to have a sophisticated system with trained and well-informed professionals in place in case a tornado ever threatens. In the case of a tornado watch or warning, the base command post is notified and sends out a pigeon client as well as getting an e-mail sent to all base personnel. A steady tone siren will be set off and each building will follow its tornado plan and take shelter in their designated area. Each unit has or should have their own pre-designated area or shelter for their personnel and occupants to go to," said Wayne L. Click, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness flight chief.

"But the reality of the situation is that tornadoes don't hold any bias or preference for where they strike," he added.

In last week's Monitor members of the 17th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness flight familiarized readers with tornado terms, their destructive power and also clarified some of the most common myths about tornadoes. In this week's article they provide information on how to prepare and what actions to take when a tornado threatens.

"One of the first things a person should do to prepare for this tornado season is make a home tornado plan," Senior Airman David Le Beau, 17 CES readiness flight journeyman said.

"Pick a place where family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way. It could be your basement or, if there is no basement, a center hallway, bathroom or closet on the lowest floor. Keep this place uncluttered," Airman Le Beau continued.

The next step should be to assemble a disaster supply kit containing the following items, he added.
◆ First aid kit and essential medications.
◆ Canned food and can opener.
◆ At least three gallons of water per person.
◆ Protective clothing, bedding or sleeping bags.
◆ Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
◆ Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
◆ Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn natural gas service back on.)

"As with any weather emergency, a person should keep a portable radio or TV with them in order to stay up to date on the latest weather conditions. And in the case of tornadoes, a person should know what a Tornado Watch and Warning means," said Airman Le Beau.

A Tornado Watch means a tornado is possible in the area. A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area. Go to safety immediately. Tornado Watches and Warnings are issued by county or parish.

Tornadoes can form anywhere with the right weather conditions and anywhere can be somewhere other than your home where your disaster supply kit is located.

For such cases, Senior Airmen Michael Gonzalez, 17 CES Readiness Flight Journeyman, provided the following information.

"If you are at a friend's house when a tornado threathens, experts suggest you do the following," said Airman Gonzalez.

"If there is a basement, go to it and stay away from the west and south walls. If there isn't a basement, get under a heavy table or under stairs, or in a small windowless first floor interior room like a closet or bathroom. And always stay away from chimneys,"

"Some tornadoes are spotted by travelers on roadways. Should you ever get caught in your vehicle after spotting a tornado experts suggest you take the following steps," Airman Gonzalez continued.

"A car is the least safe place to be in a tornado. When a warning is issued, leave the car and find shelter in a building.

If there are no safe structures nearby, lie flat in a ditch or other ground depression with your arms over your head.

If you are caught outdoors during a tornado warning experts suggest you find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles. Make sure the place you choose isn't subject to flooding, Airman Gonzalez said.
◆ If you're in the woods take shelter under the shorter trees.
◆ If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground.
◆ When boating or swimming go to land and find shelter immediately.

May 31, 2005, a tornado touched down on Loop 306 and Route 87. The damage totaled approximately $400,000. Two mobile homes and two grain elevators received substantial damage. Fortunately there was no human loss, but this case may be minimal in comparison to other tornado disasters that affected other areas of the country; events like this one serve as a reminder to us all of the destructive force of nature and the importance to be aware and prepared.