Although Minnesotans – famously so – are a weather-hardened species, this past winter, which was practically “balmy,” has probably spoiled us to some extent.
But let’s not fool ourselves. A benign winter is not necessarily the harbinger of a balmy, pleasant summer. A drought is possible, as are destructive floods. A lethal heat wave could develop, not to mention – heaven forbid – killer tornadoes.
We should pay attention to the rampaging tornadoes recently ripping across the South and Midwest, bringing so much unimaginable destruction and – sadly – injuries and death. We Minnesotans are so fortunate we do not live in “Tornado Alley” territory, as it’s known down there. However, precisely because of our relative lack of tornadoes, we must make an extra effort to remind ourselves – and one another – just how awful such storms can be.
Most of all, we’ve got to renew our knowledge of what to do when tornadoes or vicious wind storms threaten. First of all, there is no excuse – even in remote areas – not to tune into the media to find out what the weather is about to do.
Countless lives have been saved far and wide because of tornado watches and warnings.
A watch means the weather is favorable to tornado formation. A warning means at least one twister has been sighted. During a tornado watch, people should immediately move to a place near shelter. If a warning is issued, they should immediately take cover, preferably in the basement or inner room of a house or apartment complex or – lacking indoor options – in the lowest-lying level of a landscape, such as a ditch. Indoors, cover yourselves, if time permits, with lots of blankets or mattresses to guard against flying debris.
Those are the crucial tips. But tornado watches and warnings are only as good as the people who heed them. The key word in all tornado tips is “immediately.” Do not dawdle when watches and warnings – especially warnings! – are issued. Seek shelter immediately. All too many people injured in tornado storms later remark with a mixture of awe and fear how “quickly” the tornado approached to shatter their world. The dead, we’re sure, would say the same if they could only talk.
The prevalence of so many “storm-chaser” videos has given many people the false notion that tornadoes aren’t that bad, as long as you keep a safe distance from them. That can be a fatal notion for those who are not expert storm chasers. Children, especially, can develop a foolish sense of bravado in thinking tornadoes are “cool, fun, exciting.” In fact, they are to be avoided at all costs.
Every family should practice tornado drills several times during the summer, along with fire-escape drills.
Most of us can remember our youthful summers when worried parents yelled at us to get in the house and head for the basement. We thought they were weather-paranoids and worrywarts. Now, we know they knew what they were worried about.
To learn more about tornadoes and storm-survival tips, just Google “Tornado Survival Tips.” There is a wealth of good information that can help all of us have a safe and happy summer.