Archive for Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Where to go if weather threatens

May 9, 2001

When a tornado siren sounds, where should you go?

Unless you live or work in a house or office with a basement, sometimes the best place to go is no place, says a weather expert.

National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Koch, Pleasant Hill, Mo., said that by the time the sirens sound, it's usually too late to go anywhere.

"Warning time varies from storm to storm," Koch said. "Not all tornadoes develop in the same way. Some are harder for our radar to detect than others."

Warning lead time can usually be from just seconds before the tornado hits, to 20 minutes or more, he said. Before Tonganoxie's May 11, 2000, tornado, the sirens sounded about 20 minutes before the storm arrived.

Because residents may have no idea how close the storm is, if the house has no basement, they should seek shelter in an interior room without windows. Generally, closets and bathrooms are wise choices, Koch said.

"Bathrooms are good places to go, because the plumbing will often provide extra support to the framing of the house," he added.

It's those choices are unsatisfactory, Koch advises getting under a sturdy table or other piece of sturdy furniture. It's also wise to cover up with blankets or cushions to protect from flying debris.

Koch cautioned that residents of mobile homes should leave their homes.

"Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes and it would be better to evacuate it and find shelter nearby," he said.

In Tonganoxie, Chief of Police Ken Carpenter said if satisfactory time allows, police officers will unlock a building for residents to take shelter.

Residents who must take shelter outside of their homes are advised to go to the basement of West Haven Baptist Church, U.S. Highway 24-40 and Washington Street. If at all possible, police officers will have the door unlocked, Carpenter said.

Sgt. John Putthoff said Mutual Savings will no longer be opened during severe weather, because a new addition covers the outdoor entrance to the basement.

Motorists also need to heed storm warnings, Koch said.

"If you have a good idea of where the storm is going, drive in the other direction," Koch said. "If it's too late and the tornado is bearing down on you, it's better to evacuate your car, because your car can become airborne more much easily than a person can."

Motorists are advised to take shelter in a ditch, or to at least to crouch on the balls of their feet to minimize their surface area touching the ground. This could prevent the person from being struck by lightning, Koch said.

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