Did you know that Texas is the most tornado-prone state in the country?
Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornado season in Texas begins in April, peaks in May, and ends in June; however, it is not unusual to see tornadoes at other times of the year. Preparation for tornadoes includes understanding the National Weather Service (NWS) messaging and knowing how to shelter at your home, while on the road, or here at TWU.
The first step in tornado preparedness is understanding the language used in emergency messaging:
- A tornado watch refers to thunderstorm conditions that are favorable to produce tornadoes. The watch area is typically a large range, which could include multiple counties. If a tornado watch is issued, it is best to review your emergency shelter-in-place plans.
- If a tornado is occurring or will occur shortly, a tornado warning will be indicated. Signs that a tornado may be near can include a dark, greenish sky, large hail, dark and low-lying clouds, and a loud train-like roar. When a warning is issued, taking the correct action is necessary to protect life. Remember, tornadoes can have wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour, so it is important to protect yourself from the winds and debris that may have been picked up.
If a tornado warning is issued by the NWS or by TWU as a Pioneer Alert and you are outside, you may only have 9 to 13 minutes to shelter before the tornado reaches you. While not ideal, the safest place would be an area or ditch that is lower than the ground. Take cover by lying down in these areas; you are safer in a low-lying area than you would be under a bridge or highway underpass where wind speeds would be higher. If you are in a car when a warning is issued, you may have to make decisions depending on the scenario:
- If there is low-lying ground, the best option may be to park your car and get into that area or ditch.
- If there are no ditch areas, the best option may be to stay in your car, keep your seatbelt on, duck below the windows, and cover your head with anything you can.
- If you are in a building, such as one on TWU’s campuses, find a ground-level, interior room with no windows. You can find shelter-in-place maps that indicate primary and secondary locations for sheltering on the Emergency Management website.
Remember: Acting fast saves lives! If you have any questions, contact Risk Management at 940-898-4001.