In light of the recent tornadoes in Alabama and Missouri, I’d like to take time to remind people of some basic safety and donation guidelines.
Although meteorology has come a long way, tornadoes can still drop out of a thunderstorm like ninjas. Wrapped in rain, they are nearly impossible to see, especially at night. TAKE WARNINGS SERIOUSLY! Just because you don’t see anything doesn’t mean it’s not there!
Signs of A Tornado (from the NOAA website)
- Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
- Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base — tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
- Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can’t be seen.
- Day or night – Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn’t fade in a few seconds like thunder.
- Night – Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
- Night – Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning — especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.
What to Do
- At home, take cover in an interior room or basement, as far from windows and outside walls as possible. Crouch on the floor and cover your head.
- If you’re in a mobile home, get out and go somewhere else. There is nothing there that can protect you. Debris can penetrate the walls and tornadoes love to toss mobile homes.
- Office or school – follow established tornado procedures—interior room or lower level, away from windows. Stay off the elevator!
- In a store – get away from the front windows, toward an interior room or storage. Employees may direct you; listen to them! Do not stop to videotape the tornado!
- Outside or in a car – leave the car and get as far away from the road as you can. Lie flat on low ground and cover your head. DO NOT TAKE SHELTER UNDER AN OVERPASS. It will act as a wind tunnel and is dangerous!
- Do not stop to video the tornado. Flying debris can kill!
After a Disaster
If you are the victim of a tornado, you may be in shock or very upset. Watch where you walk and keep your family together. Wait for emergency help to arrive and follow instructions when it does.
- Don’t go back into a damaged building. It may collapse.
- Don’t smoke or use lighters or matches. There may be gas leaks.
- You can give first aid to people if you are qualified to do so.
DO NOT DRIVE TO THE DISASTER AREA TO SIGHTSEE. You will get in the way of emergency response and may cost people their lives. You may get arrested if you try to enter a restricted zone. Don’t call me to bail you out, because I won’t!
Tornado Donation Tips
Many people want to help the victims of a disaster. Sometimes they don’t think about what they’re doing. After the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa, AL tornado, ill-considered donations left people with a mountain of crap they can’t even use. Think before sending anything.
- Check out any organization you plan to donate to. Scams are rampant after a disaster. Look here for ways to scope disaster relief. Legitimate charities will also publish their financials so you know exactly where your money is going.
- Do not send torn, worn or nasty old clothes you don’t want anymore. Those belong in the rag bag or the trash. No used underwear either!
- Same goes for household items. Would you want a bag of someone’s junk?
- Most organizations and churches asking for donations will have a list of items needed on their website or will share it via email and social networking. Stick to the list to avoid saddling a storm victim with stuff they can’t use.
Everyone should have a plan in place for the disasters that are typical of the area. Practice and review your plan periodically so everyone knows what to do when something bad happens.