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Tornado safety

By Staff | May 30, 2014

Earlier this week an EF2 tornado touched down in Watford City. Nine people were injured, and 13 trailers were destroyed and two more badly damaged in a man camp.

On the “enhanced Fujita scale” an EF2 consists of wind speeds ranging from 111-135 miles per hour, and it can also tear the roof off a house. According to the Weather Channel, the wind speed of the Watford City tornado was an estimated 120 mph.

It isn’t the first tornado in North Dakota, not by a long shot. One time when my little brother was in children’s theater rehearsals up at the high school, I saw one start to come down just across the street from the band room window, only to get sucked back up into the clouds again. I ran to one of the shelves for big instruments, I think it was either for a tuba case or a bassoon case, and hunkered down in the event it would touch down again. (Now that I think about it, I’m surprised I was even able to fit in there.) There have been a few family trips I’ve been on – and this is partially why we don’t go camping anymore – where we’ve been in the path of a tornado.

But what’s baffling to me is that people were standing outside taking pictures and video of the Watford City tornado. Taking pictures and video. In 120 mph winds. Let that sink in for a minute and see if it doesn’t baffle you too.

I know a picture of a tornado is something you’d want to show your friends and family. But it’s not worth getting injured or killed for. Today we’re talking tornado safety, because there’s always a chance one could happen anywhere and at any time this summer.

When the tornado sirens go off, you know, the ones that go off and keep going forever, it means a tornado’s been spotted and you should get inside NOW! Go to a basement, cellar or a room with no windows and hunker down. Cover yourself with a mattress or a sleeping bag. If you live in an apartment, find an interior room with no windows. If you live in a mobile home, get out and seek shelter in a more secure building. If you’re outdoors, do not take shelter under a bridge or underpass. Lie flat and face down on low ground, away from any trees, vehicles or anything that can be blown on top of you.

It’s also handy to know the signs of a tornado, especially at night when they are ridiculously hard to see. There’s rotation and spinning dust or debris under a cloud, even if there’s no funnel. There’s precipitation followed by a dead calm or sudden wind shift. There’s a loud roar, like a train or jet engine, and it doesn’t go away after a few seconds. There are flashes at ground level, which means the tornado is hitting power lines. (Lightning or exploding power lines can light up tornadoes at night.)

Now, all that being said, my thoughts go out to those affected by the Watford City tornado and their loved ones. For all those injured I wish a speedy recovery.

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