As the severe weather season approaches, take some time during Severe Weather Safety Awareness Week to make a safety plan for your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Planning ahead will lower the chance of injury or death in the event severe weather strikes.
Tornadoes develop from severe thunderstorms. They are usually preceded by very heavy rain and/or large hail.
A thunderstorm accompanied by hail indicates that the storm has large amounts of energy and may be severe. In general, the larger the hailstones, the more potential there is for damaging winds and/or tornadoes.
The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths have exceeded the width of one mile and 50 miles long.
Tornadoes generally move from southwest to northeast, but have also been recorded traveling in any direction. The forward speed of a tornado varies from 30 mph to 70 mph.
Peak tornado season in Wisconsin is generally May through August, and they usually occur between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. A record-setting 62 tornadoes occurred in 2005, followed by 46 in 2010.
In 2008, Wisconsin had 38 tornadoes, including one EF3 tornado in western Kenosha County on January 7th. The "average" Wisconsin tornado has a seven to eight minute duration, a path length of about four to five miles, and a damage width of about 120 yards.
Tornado Safety Tips
Where to Go In Severe Weather:
• In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table, work bench or stairs), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag.
• In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stair well or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against flying or falling debris.
• In an office building: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter. Stay off elevators- you could become trapped in them if the power is lost.
• In a mobile home: Get out! Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within close distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.
• At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
• In a car or truck: If tornado is in the distance, drive at right angles to the tornado movement. If there is time, get out of your vehicle and seek shelter in a permanent building. If there is no time, you have a choice – you can stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on, or you can get out and lie flat and face down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Either way you run the risk of injuries or death.