Now’s the time to prep for tornadoes

Published 8:52 am Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring is a time of rebirth.

The flowers, which withered and faded away in the fall and winter, begin to come alive and add flashes of color to the landscape.

Songbirds begin chirping and the days get warmer and longer.

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It’s an exciting time in south Alabama.

But in the excitement, we shouldn’t forget that spring all too often brings with it events that claim the lives of residents across our state. When severe thunderstorms begin to pop up, they hammer us with lightning, hail and often-deadly tornados.

It was just more than three years ago that our state experienced one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks ever recorded.

More than 350 tornadoes ripped across the southeast from April 25-28, 2011.

On April 27, 2011, 15 violent tornadoes rated EF-4 [on 0-5 scale] or higher (including four EF-5s) struck the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. Alabama was the hardest hit, with nine violent tornadoes touching down, and 11 total crossing within its boundaries. The top two deadliest tornadoes in April since modern records began hit that day, including an EF-4 tornado that tore through Tuscaloosa and claimed the lives of 64 people.

Statewide there were 252 fatalities during the outbreak.

Those numbers are a sobering reminder of the dangers of our state’s severe weather season, which began in March and ends in May.

It’s often been said that we can’t control the weather.

That’s certainly true.

There’s nothing we can do to prevent severe weather. But we can be prepared for it, and know what to do when it strikes.

An important step in being prepared is making sure you know of the potential for a severe weather event.

That means getting severe weather warnings via text message or email, a weather radio, radio or television broadcast or through an app on your smartphone. These days you don’t have to depend on a weather siren. You can get updates any time at any place. But getting the warning is just half the battle. You must then heed the warning. Many of us are guilty of not taking these warnings seriously enough. That mistake could cost us our lives if we fail to properly respond.

Birmingham meteorologist Jill Gilardi offers the following tips for how to respond should you find yourself in the path of a tornado.

υ If you are in a home or small business, go to the basement or to a small interior room such as a closet, bathroom or interior hallway without windows on the lowest level. Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible. If possible, get under something sturdy, such as a heavy table, or use a mattress to protect yourself from flying debris. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head. If available, put on a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect yourself from head injuries.

υ If you are in a mobile home, get out and take shelter in a sturdy building or storm shelter.  If there is not one nearby, take shelter in the most interior room that has no windows, such as a interior bathroom or closet.

υ If you are caught in your vehicle, get out and into a sturdy shelter.  If one is not available nearby, get to a low spot and cover your head from flying debris. Do not take cover under an overpass as this does not provide adequate shelter during a tornado and can actually cause increased wind speeds due to a tunneling effect.

Please stay safe this spring.