What’s Your Threat? Living in Tornado Alley

Tornado AlleyWhat Are You Preparing For?

One of the very first things a new prepper needs to do is figure out what they’re preparing for. Are you wanting to be ready for a possible job loss, or other financial emergency? How about a natural disaster, like tornados, wild fires, hurricanes, or earthquakes…What natural disasters are prevalent in your area? Are you preparing to face an economic collapse, or social unrest? Maybe a little bit of everything?

I spoke a little bit about Why I Prep HERE, but I want to go into a little bit more detail about one of my reasons for prepping:

Tornados.

As long as I can remember, just about every year I’ve had to seek shelter because of a nearby tornado. Every. Single. Year. Thankfully, I’ve never been so unfortunate as to actually go through one, and I’ve never lost a home or loved one due to a tornado, but I have been close enough that an imminent tornado threat has caused me to get in the nearest bathtub, closet, or laundry room that was “safe.”

When I was little, maybe 6 or 7, I remember staring out our HUGE living room window, mine and my little brother’s faces pressed up against the glass, watching a thunderstorm. I vividly remember watching a small funnel form above our back pasture and yelling to my Mom “Look! Look, Mom!” before she freaked and threw us in the bathtub, covering us with a mattress. I don’t remember much after that, and as far as I know, it never touched down, but that’s the closest I’ve ever been to a tornado.

When I was in college, my freshman year, I lived on the third story of a girl’s dorm on campus. I remember waking up around 2am to my roommate turning the TV on and thinking she was crazy. After I got past the groggy “What is Going On?” phase, I noticed she was watching the weather. At 2am. Then she said “You need to see this.” Apparently her Dad had called her from several hundred miles away, warning her. I remember seeing lots of red and purple on the radar (never good,) and a scrolling banner that read “This tornado is approximated to touch down on UMHB campus in 15-20 minutes.” Ahem. My campus. Where I was living. On the THIRD story of a dorm, which, in case you were wondering, is a very bad place to be if a tornado is headed your way. We quickly woke up our RA across the hall, who notified the Dorm Director, and within minutes the entire dorm full of girls was squeezed into the basement, texting and calling everyone we could think of to take shelter. I was frantically trying to get ahold of my then boyfriend (now husband), who was across campus living in an apartment, and he wasn’t picking up. (Come to find out he slept through the entire thing and woke up the next morning completely clueless. Typical Boy.) Shortly thereafter we all received an automated text from the campus police urging people to seek shelter, and then the tornado sirens went off. Although the weatherman was a tad off, and no tornado touched down near our college, it did produce an EF1 tornado several miles north of us. I believe it took out a barn or two, but thankfully did not harm anyone.

Those are just two of the many examples I have, and we recently moved even deeper into the heart of Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley, which includes parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, is said to have the highest amount of tornado activity in the world. The WORLD. If people know one thing about Oklahoma, it’s that it can produce some nasty tornados. I’m not sure if it’s the geography around here, or the wind, or maybe the geography that creates the wind? Eh, I ‘m no meteorologist, but I know that tornados tend to hit Oklahoma hard. The Oklahoma City tornado outbreak in 1999, and the more recent one in Moore, OK, 2013, are just a couple of examples. In fact, when we first met our neighbors here, the VERY FIRST time we met them, they asked us if our house had a storm shelter. It does not, so they sweetly offered to let us join them if there is ever a need. A few weeks later, we met another neighbor a few houses down who also invited us to take shelter in their fortified basement, should we have time to run down the street. People who live in this state don’t take tornados lightly, and for good reason!

So, How Do You Prepare for a Tornado?

Have a Plan- Know where you’re going to go and what you need to grab if a tornado is headed your way. For us, we will grab our BOBs and try to get to one of our neighbors’ houses if at all possible, but since tornados are know to be preceded by thunderstorms and hail, if we can’t run across/down the street, we’ll be huddling our coat closet, which joins a wall with the kitchen. This is also where we keep our Severe Weather Kit so any supplies we may need are already close by.

On that same note, have a detailed, written plan for when and where to meet other friends and family members should you be separated during the tornado activity. Make sure everyone has an updated copy. Phone lines will likely be jammed for locals, but many times you’ll still be able to reach family or friends out of the area. For instance, if I’m unable to reach my husband on his cell, then I can call my Mom or his brother, who are our chosen out of state contacts, and they can each get ahold of my hubby to relay a message. It takes longer this way, but otherwise we may not be able to communicate at all.

Choose a safe location- If you have a storm shelter or basement, those would be your best options, but if not, pick a central room on the lowest floor of your home without any outside walls or windows. Preferably one with plumbing (bathroom or laundry room, etc) as the pipes are said to make a room more secure. Cover yourself with a mattress, blankets, or couch cushions for protection. Also be sure to know your workplace or school’s safe locations in case you are not at home.

What If I’m in my Car?-  If you can see which direction the tornado is moving, drive in the opposite direction. If you’re unable to drive away, but can see a close building, such as a house or stable structure, abandon your vehicle and run to the nearest building. If no buildings are around, stay in your vehicle and put your seatbelt on. Park the car in a ditch, and duck beneath the level of the windows, covering your head with a blanket, or hands and arms. Unlike the people in the video below, DO NOT SEEK SHELTER UNDER A BRIDGE OR OVERPASS! This is likely one of the worst places to be.

See this flyer put out by the NOAA for more information.

Be Informed- Each city should have some sort of warning system for bad weather. Find out what your city does, and listen for the sirens or keep your phone nearby to receive text/voicemail warnings. Having an NOAA weather radio on hand is also a great idea. Our local fire department recently handed out these weather radios for free. They are programed to alert you if there is a thunderstorm warning/watch or a tornado warning/watch in your county. It has scared me half to death twice now with it’s ear piercing alarm, but it gets the job done! I hate watching the news and the weather (mostly because they’re wrong 80% of the time and it just causes panic), so this alert radio has come in quite handy! We also have this hand crank radio in the coat closet so we can listen without having to leave the closet, and a few of these in our bug out bags and cars. We are very prepared in the weather radio area If all else fails, and you don’t have a radio available, use your senses to determine if a tornado is near. By now, I can pretty much tell by quickly stepping outside whether its just a bad thunderstorm or if a tornado could possibly come out of it:

  • Watch for large thunderstorms or hail with dark clouds (sometimes greenish in color)
  • You may see a wall cloud, specifically one that appears to be rotating slowly
  • Watch for high speed winds that are kicking up lots of dust and debris
  • A funnel (obviously a bad sign) coming down from the wall cloud, or even worse, touching the ground
  • Take shelter immediately and listen for a roaring noise

Here’s what a rotating wall cloud looks like. Notice it is rotating very slowly, but rotating nonetheless:

And this is a funnel forming from a wall cloud:

(Note: This is a last resort option, please please please use other methods of communication if they are available to you!)

Have Emergency Supplies Ready- We keep our “Severe Weather Kit” in the coat closet, as I mentioned above, so that all of the supplies we might need will be readily accessible. If we have to run to the neighbor’s house, we will grab our Bug Out Bags, which have basically the same supplies, just packaged differently. You’ll need supplies to last you at least 72 hours. There are plenty of pre-made kits on the market, but I’m all for creating your own that will full suite your family’s needs. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Water- 1 Gallon per person, per day minimum
  • Food- Something non-perishable, easy to open, and easy to eat without requiring electricity. Include a manual can opener if you have canned goods.
  • Shelter/Warmth- Tarp, blanket, sleeping bags, emergency mylar blankets, small tent, supplies to make fire (matches, lighter, toilet paper roll filled with vaseline soaked cotton balls), heat cells, hand warmers, etc
  • Light- Flashlights, headlamps plus extra batteries, or candles/oil lamps
  • First Aid Supplies/Medications- Be sure to include a few days’ supply of prescription medications if you require them
  • Radio- NOAA weather radio, preferably hand crank, but include extra batteries if not
  • Emergency Documents and Contact Information- I keep all of my original important paperwork in this binder, and copies in another secure location. We also have digital copies of everything on a flash drive in our BOBs. I could (and probably will) write an entire post just about what should be included in this binder, but for the purposes of tornado safety, just be sure to include a copy of your Driver’s Licence and/or a water or electricity bill. (Something that proves you live at that address) and contact information for several trusted individuals. Include names and phone numbers for people in your area as well as out of state or farther away. My friend, Julie, at Home Ready Home, wrote a more detailed post if you would like to check it out HERE.
  • Map- Of your area, with pre-planned evacuation routes, and rendezvous location in case you are separated from other family members
  • Cash- Preferably in small bills. (No one is going to want to make change for you in an emergency) I try to keep at least $50 in each adult BOB, and a couple hundred in the severe weather kit.
  • Clothing and Shoes- At least one change of clothes, including underwear and socks, plus a good pair of shoes per family member. I would also add a rain poncho or large trash bag and some work gloves to this category.
  • Hygiene Items- Soap or hand sanitizer, and toilet paper for the minimum. You might want to consider including shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, chapstick, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.
  • Pet Care Supplies- Don’t forget about food and water for your pets, maybe an extra leash or small toy.
  • Baby/Toddler Supplies- Diapers and wipes, snacks, pacifier, bottles, formula, etc
  • Tools- A gas shut off tool or wrench will be very handy if you have to deal with tornado aftermath. Knife, multitool, paracord, a small shovel or trowel, some sort of makeshift toilet… there are too many good ideas to list
  • Entertainment- Deck of cards, book, magazine, toys and security items for kids
  • Other- One thing many people don’t consider, but might be incredibly helpful, is a helmet. Like a bicycle helmet or motorcycle helmet if you have one on hand. We don’t keep our bike helmets with our kit, but I have a note on the box to grab them if we have time. They could save your life if you’re having to dodge debris blown around by 100+mph winds. Even Little Man has his own tiny helmet like This One

I’m sure I’ve forgotten many things on this list. It is by all means NOT extensive. I just wanted to give you some things to consider having on hand. It looks like a lot of stuff, but it really isn’t! We keep everything in a waterproof rubbermaid tub, and it fits nicely on the shelf in our tiny closet.

Some day I will get around to writing about the kit I have on hand, which will be much more comprehensive For now, you can find plenty of great ideas just by googling “72 hour kit” or looking on Pinterest. My goodness, there are so many great ideas there

What About You?

Do you live in a tornado-prone area? Do you have a plan and supplies in place in case you need them? What does your plan include? What supplies are essential to you?

So… What’s YOUR Threat?

What's Your Threat? What's the biggest threat to you and your family? Check out some amazing blogs and how they attack their biggest threats to being more prepared and more self-reliant!

What’s the biggest threat to you and your family? Check out some of these amazing blogs and how they attack their biggest threats to being more prepared and more self-reliant!

Push Past the Fear and Just Do It!! – Mom with a PREP

{Forest Fire Safety} – Mama Kautz

Why You Need Food Storage – Food Storage Moms

Break in the Supply Chain – Homestead Dreamer

Economic Downturn – Apartment Prepper

Drought! – Ever Growing Farm

Medical Emergencies at Home – Preparedness Mama

Surviving a Tornado – Survival at Home

Wildfire – Cooke’s Frontier

Rising Food Prices – Common Sense Homesteading

Economic Collapse – Timber Creek Farms

A Personal Job Loss Situation – Food Storage Made Easy

7 Tips for Keeping Your Family Together in an Emergency – Food Storage & Survival

Massive Blackout- Trailerpark Homestead

How to Overcome a Lack of Motivation to Prepare – Home Ready Home

The Unexpected – Are We Crazy, Or What?

Our Threats Are Many, But Our Worries Are None – Trayer Wilderness

Food Storage Without a Plan – My Food Storage Cookbook

Hurricanes and Nor’Easters – Backyard Pioneer

Hurricanes (What I Wish I Knew Before it Hit!) – Prepared-Housewives

A Financial Disaster – The Surival Mom

Staying Off the Radar – Geek Prepper

Everything Becomes Too Expensive – Beyond Off Grid

 

Please see my Disclaimer about affiliate links.

photo credit: Frank Peters via photopin cc

Lesslie B
I'm the wife of a wonderful, handsome man, a stay at home Mom to the most perfect 1 year old boy in the world, a (former) nurse, a cook, a baker, a DIYer, a clean freak with OCD tendencies, a born and raised Texas girl who has been transplanted in Oklahoma, and a secret-but-not-so-secret prepper... I am a lot of things, but I wouldn't be much of anything without my savior! Life can get pretty hectic around here: busy busy busy all of the time, but I try to slow down, smell the wildflowers, and enjoy life as much as possible!
Lesslie B
Lesslie B

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