There are many impressive things about Texas — beautiful scenery, big skies, great cities and more. Unfortunately, one of the things we do well, perhaps too well, is severe weather.
From San Antonio to Houston, all around the Oklahoma border and throughout our great state, tornadoes are a constant and lethal threat. In 2015, a new state record was set, with 244 tornadoes touching down in the Lone Star State, claiming 17 lives.
Though the threat is real, by keeping the following six steps in mind, you can ensure you’re as ready as you can be in the event of a tornado.
1) Prepare and plan
If you live in an area prone to tornadoes, take the time to come up with a plan now and be sure to review it with your family. In case you and your loved ones are out during a tornado, make sure you know where any nearby community tornado shelters or other safe spaces are.
At home, make sure you have a safe, underground area you can retreat to and stock it with water, flashlights and food. The overall goal is to make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go in the case of a twister.
2) Familiarize yourself with severe weather terms
A “tornado watch” means the weather conditions are right for tornadoes to form. In these situations, stay connected, be vigilant and prepare to find shelter. A “tornado warning” means that the situation just got real. Spotters have either sighted a tornado or one has appeared on the radar. If you are in the area affected by the tornado warning, take shelter as soon as possible.
3) Seek shelter immediately
It’s most likely that the shelter you’ll find in the event of a tornado is in a basement. Once you’re there, stay away from windows, as broken glass and flying debris could become a major hazard.
If you want to go beyond the basement, FEMA has a guide for building a safe room in your home to protect you and your family.
4) Armor up
As we just mentioned, a big part of the danger posed by tornadoes involves flying debris. With this in mind, the two invaluable pieces of protection to have on during a tornado are as simple as a helmet and a pair of shoes.
5) If you’re driving on the road
You may have seen someone narrowly outpace a tornado in a movie, but you should never try this yourself. If you’re in a car, don’t try to out drive a twister. Tornadoes can be highly erratic and change directions suddenly. Plus, they can move faster than you can drive.
So instead of racing a tornado, get out of your car and seek shelter immediately. This may involve taking cover in a low-lying ditch. While doing this may seem risky, it’s safer than staying inside of your car. Additionally, stay away from a highway overpass as this can expose you and the car to higher wind speeds and more flying debris.
6) The aftermath
If a tornado passes through your area, stay calm and try to tune into local radio stations or emergency broadcast centers. Listen to local authorities and officials for instructions on what to do next.
Notify your friends and family and tell them you are okay via text, phone calls or social media.
Above all, be careful. Watch out for downed power lines or other hazards. If there is any damage to your property, be sure to take extensive photographs for insurance purposes.
Tornadoes are violent, destructive feats of nature. For many, they are a fact of life, but with some thoughtful preparation, you can do a lot to help mitigate the danger posed by these storms.