Friday, April 15, 2011

How to recognize that a tornado is coming in NC and VA

Source: Univ of Wisc SSEC
Serious thunderstorms are expected on Saturday Apr 16.  The storm system crossing the midwest is a monster.  The front attached to the system has caused a great deal of damage with damaging wind, hail, and tornadoes.

Jackson, MS was damaged by a tornado which cut quite a path.  This dramatic video shows a large twister in action.

Here in NC and VA tornadoes are rare.  Major ones even moreso.  Most of our twisters have winds less than 100 mph and bounce rather than cut a path.  Unlike other regions of the country tornadoes are difficult to see coming because of heavy rain and the fact that they bounce from location to location.

My three experiences of being near a tornado, one actually seeing a funnel featured distinctive clues which can be useful to you.  If you see the following then run to a tornado safe shelter right away.
  • Heavy rain stops suddenly.  Sky might even lighten a bit.
  • Hail is hitting the ground/
  • Lightning is striking close and often.  
Waiting for the sound of a freight train can be too late because the low hills and trees dampen the sound and prevent the funnel from being seen.  So by the time the tornado is seen it is often on top of the person looking for it.  

Fortunately the major tornadoes that blow out walls, flip cars, and cut a path of damage are rare in NC and VA.  Tomorrow's storms have potential to produce the uncommon twisters.

If a tornado warning is issued or the weather conditions described above indicate that a twister is nearby then take the following steps:
  • Go to an interior room , hallway, or bathroom away from windows.
  • Avoid temptation to look for the tornadoes.  Broken glass and pieces of toys can become misslies!
Have a safe Saturday!

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