The two scariest thoughts about tornadoes: They strike randomly, and the deadly damage is total.
The two scariest thoughts about tornadoes: They strike randomly, and the deadly damage is total. Despite improved forecasting, they still come as a shock, with victims getting minutes of warning. Many occur at night while we are asleep.
After the devastation caused last week in Moore, Okla. — killing 24 people, and creating $2 billion worth of damage — the natural question is what are the chances of something similar happening here?
Here are five things you need to know about tornadoes, gleaned from a variety of research sources:
1 WHAT ARE STARK COUNTY’S CHANCES?
We are on the eastern edge of the Midwestern Tornado Alley. Ohio averages 16 tornadoes a season from April through July. The insurance industry ranks Stark County a low risk for tornado damage.
Four tornadoes have struck locally since 1916 and three since 1966. The last one, in 2002, caused $45 million in damages in Jackson Township. Stark tornado deaths total three since 1916. These are the official records. Victims often call damage tornado-related when it actually is windstorm-related.
Risk of tornado damage here is about the same as Ohio’s. The state ranks last of the 18 states where tornadoes most commonly appear.
2 WHAT CAUSES TORNADOES?
Unusually cold air above unstable, very warm, humid air. Where they collide forms a high-wind shear. Twisting winds concentrate to form funnel clouds. They become tornadoes when they reach ground.
On weather radar, cloud hook echoes indicate possible tornadoes. On the ground, look for swirling clouds dropping from lines of thunderstorms.
In Ohio, most tornado warnings occur between 2 and 10 p.m. with June generating the most occurrences, usually from west to east.
3 WHAT ABOUT WEATHER REPORTS?
There are two parts: Tornado potential of storms (issued in “tornado watch” advisories) and spotted tornadoes (issued in warnings). An advisory is a forecast, meaning be alert for trouble. Meteorologists call a warning a “nowcast,” demanding we take cover immediately.
Tornado advisories may be issued up to two days ahead. Warnings may be up to 20 minutes before tornadoes reach an area. Storm sirens are sounded during warnings.
4 WHAT CAN WE DO?
Create a storm plan with your family.
Be aware of storm reports on TV, NOAA weather radio and online. The signs that a tornado is approaching are:
• Dark or green-colored sky
• Large, dark, low-flying cloud
• Large hail
• Loud roar sounding like a train
Note that flying debris causes the most injuries, especially exploding windows.
Activate your storm plan by sending all to a shelter area inside your house. This could be a central hallway or an internal bathroom or closet without windows on the lowest floor. The safest area is the basement, if you have it.
Page 2 of 2 - For added protection, seek shelter under a heavy table or workbench. A blanket or sleeping bag affords some protection against flying debris.
Evacuate a mobile home immediately and go to a nearby building shelter or basement.
If caught in a vehicle, stop, get out and seek shelter in a nearby building or in a culvert, depression or ravine. Lie down flat and protect your head with your arms. Never shelter under your vehicle.
5 AM I COVERED?
Tornado damage is covered under the windstorm-peril clause of homeowners’ insurance. Drivers having comprehensive auto insurance are covered under the “other than collision” clause of their policies. This includes windstorm and hail damage.
Federal loans may be available for areas hard hit by storms if they are declared disaster areas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency may provide temporary shelter and food along with local agencies such as the Red Cross.
SOURCES: National Weather Service, Ohio Insurance Institute, National Severe Storms Laboratory, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention