Dark clouds from severe weather

The Nashville Tornadoes Show that Tornado Season Could Be Any Day of the Year

Yes, tornadoes, like hurricanes and many other natural phenomena, do technically have a "season." In the United States, tornado season generally falls in the spring, during the months of April, May, and June. Higher numbers of tornadoes form in these months compared to other times of the year. Tornadoes are often more intense during these months as well.

Although there are more tornadoes in the spring compared to the other seasons, that doesn’t mean that other seasons are tornado-free. In fact, tornadoes can strike on any day of the year.

Sadly, this truth was on vivid display during the first week of March 2020.

Deadly Tornadoes Strike Tennessee

Starting just before midnight on March 2nd, and extending into the early hours of March 3rd, a series of tornadoes struck central Tennessee. The worst one was an EF4 in intensity, meaning that it had winds that exceeded 165 miles per hour.

This was declared the deadliest tornado event in seven years, even before authorities were finished assessing the full extent of the damages. (Not since the EF5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma in 2013 had a tornado brought such fatal destruction.)

Multiple counties in Tennessee experienced fatalities, including Putnam, Wilson, Benton, and Davidson (which is home to the city of Nashville). Putnam County was the hardest-hit, enduring 18 fatalities. These tornadoes that hit Tennessee were part of a larger onslaught, as tornadoes also touched down in communities in Kentucky, Missouri, and Alabama.

Two days after this severe weather event, at least 24 people had been declared dead. As a result of the storms, tens of thousands of residents lost power, and hundreds of buildings got destroyed, including people’s homes. The tornadoes even adversely affected Super Tuesday voting at some polling places in Tennessee.

Condolences and Gratitude in Trying Times

Obviously, the death toll in Tennessee is profoundly troubling, and we at Survive-a-Storm extend our deepest sympathies to the families and communities affected by this horrible tragedy. We also express our gratitude to law enforcement, firefighters, and other first responders, as well as (extra)ordinary citizens who rushed in to help their neighbors in need.

But in the face of such devastation, the path forward, after mourning and recovery, needs to include preparation. The sobering truth is that tornadoes will strike other communities in the United States. And the heart of “tornado season,” that is, April-June, hasn’t even arrived yet.

Tornadoes Don’t Just Arise in a Few Places

Not confined by time or space, tornadoes can, and have, hit all 50 states. Roughly 1,200 tornadoes strike the United States each year. No place in the country is fully immune to these terrible storms, though certain regions are more prone to them than others.

Many Americans are likely familiar with the term “Tornado Alley,” which describes an area overlapping the Great Plains and is traditionally associated with deadly twisters. Though not strictly defined, Tornado Alley usually denotes northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, as well as portions of their neighbors, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri.

Less well-known is “Dixie Alley” which covers much of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of their bordering states. Though not as commonly discussed as its cousin to the north and west, this “Alley” often experiences tornadoes that are even deadlier. Sadly, the March 2020 tornadoes fit right into this model.

Planning for Potential Tornadoes

We can’t simply prevent tornadoes, but there are steps we can take as defensive measures. Here is a list of essential things to remember when thinking about how best to protect yourself and your family from severe weather.

Identify a safe space

As we have discussed before, being on the road is not a good place to be during severe weather. Whether you’re in a vehicle or walking, you are at great risk if you are out in the open when a tornado hits. Two of the fatalities from the March 2020 Tennessee tornadoes were killed by flying debris on a street in Nashville.

Ideally, your home would have a dedicated storm shelter, designed and built specifically for the purpose of protecting you and your family from deadly tornadoes. At the very least, you should be able to take refuge in a basement or in a room that has no windows or exterior walls. It’s best to put as many sturdy barriers between you and the tornado as possible.

Have an established plan

According to Davidson County authorities, residents of East Nashville only had six minutes to find safety from the storm after being warned. As these storms occurred late at night and into the early morning, they caught many people sleeping. Could you wake up your whole family and get them to your shelter in such a short amount of time? Planning for the worst now may just produce the best possible outcome in the future.

Make sure you can stay updated

Most Americans depend heavily on devices and other modern conveniences. But tens of thousands of residents in these tornado-stricken areas lost power during or after the storms hit. If there was no electricity, and you couldn’t get cell phone reception, how would you hear the latest storm-related news? It’s best to have a radio and a flashlight powered by batteries or by a hand crank that won’t fail if the utilities or the cell network goes out.

In Conclusion

Tornadoes can strike any time of the day, potentially on any day of the year. No part of the United States is completely safe. And sadly, tornadoes often bring deadly destruction with them. But there are steps that you and your family can take to better ensure your safety.

Have a safe space, share your well-developed plan with your family, and prepare for how you will stay informed.

Reach Out to Survive-a-Storm

Unfortunately, we can’t prevent tornadoes from happening altogether. But by taking precautionary steps, we can minimize their tragic effects.

If you would like to learn more about how you can protect your family from severe weather, contact Survive-a-Storm today. Whether you’re an individual or a business (of any size), we can find a storm shelter that will suit your needs.

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A road running to the horizon under a dark cloud

Severe Weather Safety While on the Road

Let’s be blunt: Don’t ever take the threat of severe weather lightly, especially while on the road.

Proper preparedness in the face of tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other severe weather may literally determine whether you and your family live or die.

And being on the road, in any type of vehicle, is one of the most dangerous places to be during a severe weather event.

Tornadoes can roll and flip vehicles, even the largest and heaviest ones. Strong winds often bring down trees, flattening cars.

As the height of tornado season approaches, consider the dangers of traveling before you get on the road.

Before you travel, ask yourself:

Is this trip really necessary?

Many times, we think that a trip that we simply want to take is a trip that we must take. But rarely is that ever the case. If the National Weather Service has issued a warning about severe weather, consider postponing your trip until after the danger is gone.

Can I monitor the weather situation as it develops?

If you decide that you must travel, despite severe weather, gather as much information as you can about how bad it is, where it’s likely to head next, and when it will have passed your intended path.

You can follow weather reports online and via TV and radio. The NOAA radio network transmits weather forecasts and updates on watches and warnings 24 hours a day. When you’re in your vehicle, find a local radio station that is broadcasting weather updates and heed its warnings. And remember that satellite radio will not provide you with warnings appropriate to your location.

Ideally, when traveling, especially during severe weather, you should keep a battery-powered weather radio or one that you can power by turning a crank. Investing in a hand-crank flashlight is a great idea too!

How well do I know the area I’ll be passing through?

Of course, severe weather can harm you even if you’re just traveling in your own neighborhood. But the farther you travel, and the less familiar the territory, the more likely it is that you could run into trouble during severe weather.

If you must travel, familiarize yourself with your route before you start off. Becoming more geographically-aware also empowers you to see the bigger picture when assessing danger. For instance, the National Weather Service issues severe weather warnings according to counties. That means that knowing which counties you will transit on your trip may improve your chances of avoiding the worst dangers.

Can I cope if my device fails me?

In the days before mapping apps and other GPS technology, travelers had to depend on folding maps stuffed in glove boxes. These may seem quaint or outdated to many people now. But paper maps actually had one major advantage over the electronic ones in our modern devices: They wouldn’t fail in severe weather.

Imagine that a tornado takes down a cellphone tower. Or maybe your phone reception is too poor because you’re in a remote area. That glove-box map can still be your trusted navigator.

Do I have a contingency route?

You may encounter unexpected physical hazards on the road itself. Maybe a part of your intended path will be underwater. There could be a fallen tree or downed power lines blocking your way. High winds may have blown debris onto the road.

If you had to turn around, would you still find your way? This is where your ability to read a map might come in very handy. But it’s even better if you can plan an alternate route before you even start your trip.

Will I know where to go to best protect myself on the road?

As stated earlier, a vehicle is not a safe place to be during severe weather.

But if you do find yourself out on the road during a sudden bout of severe weather, there are some important things to remember. Could you answer the questions below?

What should I do if I’m driving and I spot a tornado?

  • Do stay calm. Panicking will never help you think more clearly or make good decisions.
  • Do get off the road and seek sanctuary in a sturdy structure. Obviously, a dedicated storm shelter will offer you the best protection. But in a pinch, being in a truck stop or a roadside restaurant is much better than trying to ride out the weather in a vehicle.
  • Do follow the basic guidelines to protect yourself during a tornado.
    • Get in—place yourself in a solid structure as far from exterior walls as you can
    • Get down—go to the lowest place in the building; a basement, if possible
    • Cover up—crouch down and cover your neck and head to ward off injuries from flying debris

What should I not do if I’m driving and I spot a tornado?

  • Don’t try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle. Tornadoes can move very quickly, and the direction of their movements can be unpredictable.
  • Don’t park your vehicle under a bridge or highway overpass. These structures are not designed to provide a safe haven during severe weather. In addition, you may end up blocking traffic that needs to pass, including emergency vehicles.
  • Don’t attempt to drive through flowing or standing water on or off the road. You have no way to accurately gauge how deep a pool of water may be or how strong a current actually is. Your vehicle may become stuck or even be swept away.
  • Don’t put yourself in any situation where you might be trapped in your vehicle or stuck on a roadway with no hope of finding a proper shelter.

What about seeking shelter in a ditch?

Finally, if you’re on the road and confront severe weather and you absolutely cannot get to a sturdy building for shelter, you can seek out a ditch or a ravine to lie in. But doing this should be your last resort. Even though you’re below ground level, you’re still susceptible to being struck by flying debris. A tornado might even lift your own abandoned vehicle and turn it into a missile, weaponizing it against you as you lie in the ditch.

In Conclusion

Keep off the road, if at all possible, during an outbreak of severe weather. Always stay aware of your surroundings and monitor weather updates from a trusted authority. Get to a tornado shelter if you can, or take refuge in another sturdy structure if a dedicated shelter is not available.

Have a question about storm shelters? Reach out to the experts at Survive-a-Storm today at 888-360-1492 and learn how we can make your community safer!

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