WHAT IS A TORNADO?
According to the Glossary of Meteorology (AMS 2000), a tornado is a violently rotating column of air, pendant from a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud. Tornadoes are spawned from severe thunderstorms with winds that reach up to 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Tornadoes are a direct threat to life and property.
When you think about areas that are high risk for tornadoes, Louisiana does not come to mind. In fact, Louisiana has had seven federal Disaster Declarations for tornado events since 1965. According to NOAA, one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in United States history occurred in Louisiana and neighboring states during April 24-26, 1908. A number of violent tornadoes moved through parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, killing 324 people and injuring 1,652 others. The worst damage took place in Amite, Louisiana, where 29 people died.
WATCHES AND WARNINGS:
Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible in our area. Remain alert for approaching storms.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.
When a tornado threatens, individuals need to have a safe place to go and time to get there. Even with advances in meteorology, warning times may be short or sometimes not possible. Lives are saved when individuals receive and understand the warning, know what to do, and know the safest place to go.
Quick facts you should know about tornadoes:
- They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
- They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
- The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
- The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
- Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
- Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
- Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
Crowley, LA survey tornado damage on Christmas Eve 2009
WHAT TO DO
If you receive a tornado warning, protect yourself and your family; seek shelter immediately.
- At home: Go to the basement or storm shelter, or go to rooms nearest the center of the house.
- In high-rises or other public buildings: Move to the interior (preferably a stairwell or hallway).
- In your car: STOP! Get out and lie flat in a low area.
- Cover your head.
- In an open field: Lie face down in a low area (a ditch or ravine if there is one nearby *be aware that this might be a danger in areas prone to flash floods).
- Cover your head with your arms.