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Tornado: What to watch for and how to prepare for the storm


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  • sign of a tornado - supercell cloud

    A tornado can strike with little to no warning if conditions are favorable. Although tornadoes tend to occur in specific regions like Tornado Alley, it is important to remember they have occurred in all 50 states and can happen any time of year. Notably, they most frequently occur between 4 pm and 9 pm.

    With tornadoes, we often hear about the Fujita Scale rating, which measures the severity of wind speed. F1 tornadoes are the weakest, and F5 tornadoes are the strongest. Still, F1 tornadoes remain very dangerous, so during storm season, it’s prudent to remain prepared, especially if you live in an area prone to tornadoes and intense thunderstorms.

    We all know the most obvious sign of a tornado—a rotating funnel cloud extending from a thunderstorm—but there are additional ways to stay abreast of an oncoming storm. While watching the news, following your local weather, and using resources such as the NOAA can help, the following signs can also help indicate whether there is a tornado in your area:

    1. Debris falling from the sky
    2. A dramatic change in sky color
    3. A cloud of debris close to the ground, even if you cannot see a funnel cloud nearby
    4. A loud, roaring noise that occurs after a thunderstorm

    Remember, tornadoes can strike any time of day, but even if your visibility is limited at night, there are signs you can look for to assist in determining the viability of a tornado in the later hours of dusk and beyond. Like the general signs above, these include:

    1. A roaring noise that grows softer and louder over and over; it is often described as sounding like a freight train
    2. Bright flashing colors (often a blue-green color) near the ground, indicating power lines have been taken down by intense wind
    3. An abrupt shift in wind pattern, particularly after a slow, calm evening
      1. Oftentimes, a sudden calm after a thunderstorm indicates an approaching tornado
    4. Hail and/or heavy rain
    5. A wall cloud (often the result of a supercell thunderstorm) which provides favorable conditions for a tornado
    6. Falling, whirling, or approaching debris, often in a cluster of dust
    7. A green-tinted sky

    Staying safe during severe weather is a top priority, and the following ways will help you prepare, ensuring you and your loved ones stay secure from tornadoes.

    Follow these safety tips to prepare for a tornado:

    1. Remain aware of weather conditions, especially if you know thunderstorms or severe weather is imminent. Your local radio stations, as well as national weather sources such as The Weather Channel, are great resources for up-to-date information. However, keep in mind that sometimes tornadoes strike so quickly there is little to no warning, so do your best to pay attention to the weather in general
    2. Always have an emergency plan in place, so you and your loved ones know exact directions on what to do in the event of a tornado
      1. This can include maintaining a list of important cell phone numbers, as well as having a kit on standby, containing emergency medical supplies, flashlights, perishable and non-perishable food, and battery-operated items such as portable TVs and radios
    3. Take shelter immediately, ideally in a basement
      1. If your home or the building you are in does not have a basement, then a closet or bathroom (ideally, an interior room without windows) is preferable. If nothing else, hide beneath something sturdy such as a workbench or table, and use a mattress or sleeping bag for protection from flying debris. If you are outside, try to find a ditch to lay in, and if you are in your car, rather than outrun the tornado, try to find the nearest durable building for protection. It’s of the utmost importance you do everything you can to protect your head
    4. Remember, a tornado watch means conditions are favorable for a tornado, but one has not yet been spotted. Conversely, a tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted, and you should seek cover immediately

    Rest assured, if disaster strikes your home or business in the aftermath of a tornado or other severe weather, SERVPRO® is available to assist 24/7, 365 days a year. With more than 2,000 franchises across the United States and Canada, a franchise is always nearby, with trained restoration specialists on standby. Our certified technicians undergo continual training, using top restoration equipment to ensure your storm, water, or other damage is quickly, effectively, and safely remediated. Our commercial restoration process will assist in cleaning up after a tornado or similar natural disaster. We also provide construction services, from minor repairs to full reconstruction of entire areas of your home or business. We are committed to making your property damage “Like it never even happened,”® so if you are struck by tornado damage, give us a call.


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