Act quickly after tornado warning

Published 5:46 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The severe thunderstorms that danced on and around Isle of Wight and Surry last Thursday night were a fresh reminder of the need to take safety precautions when conditions are ripe for tornadoes.

Actually, here at the Times, we don’t need a reminder. Our colleagues and journalist “cousins” at the Suffolk News-Herald lost their longtime office when an EF-1 storm tore through downtown Suffolk in August 2020. Fortunately, the building was unoccupied – and is now being rehabilitated to accommodate 14 upscale apartments. From the ruins, progress.

After three straight weeks of violent spring weather in the South, and with another round predicted for this week, our friends at Accuweather shared some timely tips on tornado safety that we encourage our readers to heed throughout the spring storm season and beyond.

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Here are some key steps to take if you are under a tornado warning — which means a tornado has been spotted or has been detected on radar — as well as what you should not do.

* If you see a tornado while driving, do not take shelter under an overpass, and never try to outrun a tornado. The narrow passage underneath an overpass could cause an increase in the wind speed under the bridge, according to weather experts. If the tornado is visible at a far distance, drive at right angles to the perceived path of the twister and seek shelter in a building off the roadway.

* But when there is no shelter immediately nearby, experts recommend staying in your car, secured into your seat belt, and putting your head down below the window, covering it with your hands or a blanket if you have one. Or, if you can safely get to a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine, basically lower than the roadway, then exit the car and lie down in the area and cover your head with your hands or use a protective covering like a blanket or tarp. Flying debris is one of the greatest risks when a tornado hits.

* If your home doesn’t have a basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet or interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use pillows, blankets or other cushions to protect your head and neck. Gather up pets only if time allows.

* Don’t open windows and doors. A popular myth is that if you open your windows and doors, the pressure inside and outside the house will equalize, and the tornado will cause less damage. However, this is false, and opening doors and windows only wastes precious time.

On average, tornado warnings are issued 13 minutes in advance. This is not a ton of time, but it is enough to follow the above tips and lessen your risk of death or serious injury.