- Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. If no debris cloud or circulation is detected at the ground, it is called a funnel cloud.
- The Enhanced Fujita Scale estimates tornado wind speed based on the damage, using a scale from 0 to 5.
- The strongest wind ever recorded on earth was in an EF5 tornado. Doppler radar measured a wind speed of 318 mph inside the tornado that hit an Oklahoma City suburb on May 3rd, 1999.
- Extreme tornadoes are rare in southeast Texas. Since 1950, 211 tornadoes have been reported in Harris County and 75% of them have been classified as the weaker EF0s and EF1s.
- Houston's worst tornado outbreak occurred on November 21st, 1992. Six tornadoes formed in Harris County, including the only EF4 tornado on record. The violent tornado completely destroyed 14 homes in Channelview and did $250 million in damage. Amazingly not one life was lost! You can read a full report on this outbreak here.
Tornadoes pick up a tremendous amount of debris as they swirl along the ground. These objects then become like missiles that can do serious damage. Because of this, you'll want to do everything you can to protect your body and head from flying objects. Stay away from windows and find a safe spot that puts as many walls as possible between you and the outside of your home. A basement is ideal, but most houses around here don't have one. A small, interior room on the lowest level of your home is the next best option. You'll want to make sure the room has four sturdy walls and a low ceiling, such as a bathroom or closet. It's crucial that this room has as little clutter as possible because any loose object can quickly become a flying projectile.
Once your family has moved to your safe spot, have everyone crouch down on the floor and cover their heads either with their hands or a small pillow. Again, you'll want to do everything you can to protect yourself from the impact of flying debris.
If you are caught on the road during a tornado warning, do NOT seek shelter underneath an overpass! Winds accelerate as they move through the overpass, and that puts you in even more danger because the overpass offers no protection from the flying debris. At best, one side of your body will be exposed to the wind. Also, you should never attempt to outrun a tornado in your car. The best thing to do is pull over and seek shelter in a nearby building.
Downburst winds can often mimic tornado damage, and you'll want to use the same tips to keep your family safe in the storm. Trees, fences, and trampolines are the most common objects damaged during these high winds events. Take preventative measures to trim back tree limbs, strengthen old fences, and secure trampolines to the ground long before the next storm strikes.
(Copyright © 2007, KTRK-TV)Related Links:
- Flooding Facts and Safety Tips
- Lightning Facts and Safety Tips
- Hail Facts and Safety Tips
- Tornado Facts and Safety Tips
- Severe Wind Facts and Safety Tips
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