Fall Tornado Safety Tips in Wichita
In Kansas, we hear a lot about severe weather awareness in the spring, particularly during April and May, when tornado season peaks. However, there’s a “second season” for tornadoes in the fall, which lasts through October or early November.
If you developed a tornado preparedness plan as part of Severe Weather Awareness Week in March, August or September is a great time to re-evaluate it, to account for the different family routines and sports schedules that come with the start of a new school year. Businesses should also review and practice their safety procedures in advance of the “second tornado season”, to make sure new employees know where to go and what to do in the event of a severe weather outbreak.
If you don’t already have a severe weather plan, here are a few reasons why you should make one:
- Tornadoes can form quickly, and there may be little warning.
- The National Weather Service reports an average lead-time of only 13 minutes for a tornado warning.
- Tornadoes move at an average of 30mph, but can go as fast as 70mph.
- The most common time for tornadoes is afternoon and evening, but they can form any time – day or night.
- Tornado season in Kansas is generally early spring through fall, but tornadoes are possible year-round. In fact, a tornado touched down in Harper, KS in December 2014.
What to Do to Prepare for Tornado Second Season
Build an emergency response kit. Gather supplies and basic necessities for you and your family, including your pets, to survive for 3 days. Think about things like food, water, medicines, and personal sanitation needs. If you already have a kit, make sure there are no expired items, and consider adding extra blankets or jackets to account for the cooler fall weather.
You can find checklists for building a tornado emergency kit here:
Plan ahead for what you would do and where you would go if a tornado hits. Knowing ahead of time where to go if a tornado warning is issued can save valuable time, and possibly even your life. Have a tornado drill at work, and a family drill at home, so you can practice heading to your shelter. Also discuss what to do if you’re driving or at another location like church or sports practice, and what kids should do if they’re home alone.
Find more information about creating an emergency plan:
Know the Difference between a Tornado Watch and a Warning
Tornado Watch – Conditions are right for tornadoes to form. Monitor a weather radio or media weather reports and be ready to take shelter.
Tornado Warning – A tornado has been indicated by radar or a trained spotter. This is an imminent threat – take shelter!
Tornado Warning Systems
If a tornado warning is issued, the outdoor warning sirens will sound, but they’re not the only way you can be alerted about a tornado or other severe weather threat. In fact, the National Weather Service says you shouldn’t rely on sirens alone when determining when to take shelter. They’re meant to warn people who are outside, so the sirens can’t always be heard inside homes and buildings. Also, the sirens won’t work if there’s a power outage. On hot summer nights when the air conditioner is running, a siren isn’t usually loud enough to wake someone who’s sleeping.
A more reliable warning system is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio and the local media. There are also apps for iPhone and Android that provide weather alerts to your phone.
Learn more about Sedgwick County’s Warning Systems and Shelters:
Sheltering Options during a Tornado Warning
Unfortunately, Wichita doesn’t have community tornado shelters, but here are some guidelines to help you decide where to shelter. The key is to get below ground or as low as possible, and get as many walls between you and the tornado as you can.
A basement is the safest place to be during a tornado.
If no basement is available, a small interior room, like a closet or bathroom, on the lowest level is the best option.
Do not stay in a mobile home during a tornado warning! Know ahead of time how to get to a tornado shelter.
If you’re in a public building, interior stairwells or rooms on the lowest level are safest.
When driving, do NOT take shelter under an overpass! Find low ground to lie down in, such as a ditch or culvert.
Find more tornado safety tips and facts in the 2016 Severe Weather Awareness Week Packet.