Tornado safety – Severe Weather Awareness Week

Local News

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Tornadoes are one of the most destructive ways mother nature balances the atmosphere, and knowing what to do when one hits your area can be the difference between life and death.

First, let us discuss what you don’t want to do when in danger of a tornado. You don’t want to be outside, this one is obvious. Debris flying around can easily kill you if you are struct, not to mention trees or powerlines can fall on you. Hail often comes with tornadoes and can be quite large in nature, which also poses a dangerous risk.

Don’t get into your car and try to outrun the tornado. You don’t know what direction it is moving and in places with a lot of trees, or if it is nighttime, you could have trouble seeing the tornado. Never take shelter under an overpass, they look safe but the wind shear around it can amplify the speed and destroy vehicles.

There are several don’ts when taking shelter inside as well, don’t use a room with a lot of windows. Glass is sharp when it breaks and can become a projectile, not to mention flying debris coming in after the window breaks. Exterior walls will likely be the first to fall, so you want to put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Finally, don’t go into a garage. Lots of metal, a car that can move, not safe.

Safe areas in a house for taking shelter during a tornado.

In the photo above, you can see some good locations that you can take shelter in. The basement is the best place as it is underground and made of very sturdy materials. Windows are limited in basements so that hazard is mostly removed as well. If you don’t have a basement, an interior room, hallway, closet, or bathroom are the next best-case scenarios. Remember, no windows, as interior as you can make it.

If you live in an apartment building, try your best to make it to the ground level or, if available, the basement. If you know people on the ground floor, ask them if you can take shelter ahead of time in the event of a tornado. If you can’t make it to the ground floor, a staircase without windows is helpful, or use the standard interior room rules stated above if that is not available.

Mobile homes offer challenges that are unique to them. They are often cheaply made and not secured to the ground. 18 News reached out to Dave Nicosia, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Binghamton to see what you should do if you’re in a mobile home. “If you live in a mobile home, you need to prepare in advance because our mobile homes are easily tossed about by tornadoes, so if there’s a tornado watch, which means conditions are favorable for a tornado, you need to have a plan in case a warning is issued and one is coming,” said Nicosia.

He emphasized the rule of getting as many walls between you and the exterior as possible. When taking shelter, take a thick blanket or mattress and use it to cover yourself for added protection. Tornadoes are rare events, but knowing what to do if one strikes your area can be the difference between life and death.

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