With summer kicking into full gear, Wright County Emergency Management Director Seth Hansen wants to remind residents about the dangers of severe weather that spawn tornadoes. In a typical year, Minnesota gets hit with 28 confirmed tornadoes – with the most (9.5) coming in June and, on average, 20 can be expected between June 1 and Aug. 31.
Minnesota has witnessed tornadoes in every month except December, January and February and, while not known as “Tornado Alley,” Minnesota ranks among the states most often hit by tornadoes in the summer months. According to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., Minnesota ranks fifth in the average number of tornadoes in June (9.5), first for July (7.1) and third in August (3.4).
“Tornados can be extremely dangerous forces of nature and should be taken very seriously,” Hansen said. “There are severe weather safety tips that can help prepare people for possible tornados.”
Depending on where you are when severe weather strikes can determine your course of action because they can be very different.
In a house with a basement. Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench) or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag.
In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment. Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.
In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper. Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building—away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
In a mobile home. Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.
At school. Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
In a car or truck. Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible—out of the traffic lanes. Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.
In the open outdoors. If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.
In a shopping mall or large store. Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.
In a church or theater. Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.
After the tornado. Keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.
“Severe weather can be a very serious and dangerous matter,” Hansen said. “In order to remain safe and unharmed, it is imperative that you are educated about the necessary safety precautions.”