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Tornadoes

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Tornadoes

It sounds like there are so many tornadoes in Texas. How does that affect you

guys? What actions do you take to protect yourself and family? How do you get notified? Is storm siren everywhere?

Does every house have a storm cellar? It sounds scary, especially for children, I mean the "train sound".

dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestne…

San Antonio, Texas
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1. Re: Tornadoes

most houses here do not have cellars, and they probably should. however, the ground (at least here in south/central Texas) is solid rock just a few feet down, and nobody is going to pay to blast out a cellar. there are storm sirens or warnings on tv/radio....but most of the storms seem to happen in rural, flat areas. i saw a national geographic special on how tornadoes form, and it's very difficult for them to spawn where there are hills or many tall buildings or other structures like bridges that would hinder their formation. you hardly ever hear of a tornado hitting a big city like Dallas. It could happen, but i personally wouldn't worry about it. i've lived in Texas all my life, and you really don't think about it...especially if you live in the HILL Country. ; - )

San Antonio, TX
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2. Re: Tornadoes

I live in San Antonio - the threat of tornadoes is somewhat less than further north. That said, the only time I've personally witnessed one was from here in town, it was several miles away and did little damage.

I have family west of Ft. Worth and their homes have specially built storm rooms, usually a large closet built to withstand tornados. They never have had to use them. Others in the area have special "rooms" buried outside their homes. You can see them for sale on the side of the road. They look sort of like huge iron stoves with two pipes on top - smaller air vent, larger housing stairs.

We get weather information by television, radio, and in some areas by sirens. Some small towns also use the sirens to notify volunteer firefighters.

I think any kind of severe weather can be scary (for adults too,) but actually the scariest natural event I've experienced is an earthquake tremor. It only lasted about 10 seconds, seemed like for ever - did no damage, but was so surrealistic.

Big D
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3. Re: Tornadoes

We had many more tornado warnings/watches in Michigan (where I grew up) than in Dallas...the kind where you hunker-down in the basement.

My brainiac son told me last night that it's extremely rare for a tornado to touch down in a city - where the pavement heats-up and stays hot (as opposed to a prairie) preventing a tornado from touching down.

OO
San Antonio, Texas
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4. Re: Tornadoes

The first place I experienced them was living in New Orleans, where there are also no basements because the water table is so high. We were always told to go to a small interior room, windowless, like a small bathroom, space under stairs or walk-in closets. When you first move to an area like that you really get freaked out when you hear that one is in the area, but it wears off. After moving and living in Dallas for a while, I was aware of a certain quality of light or air or something that indicated we were probably in a tornado warning. Turning on the TV or news usually verified that. We lived in Plano, a 45 minute drive from the airport but I recall hearing, shortly after we moved there, that one was spotted in the air around DFW and the direction they gave for its travel was toward us--getting a little panicky and herding the kids into a closet. Little did I know it would be the rare tornado indeed that would stay intact all the way from DFW to Plano! :> You eventually get sort of used to them being spotted, or being in a warning and it doesn't really bother you much. "They NEVER hit where you are"...famous last words. We did know though, in every house, what room we would head to!

I do recall one hitting downtown Ft Worth probably 10 or so years ago, so they don't always avoid cities, but it does seem as if they really like trailer parks!!

We moved here, our last move in many, from Tampa where the water version is water spouts and where I was freaked out all over again. My son and husband laughed at me when I told them...while we were out on the Gulf but headed back to the marina, that the cloud nearby looked as if it was going to form something--it had little thingees hanging down. Haha they laughed!! Then we watched in awe as it developed fully, looking exactly like a tornado, but fortunately a good distance from us. Still!! How fast do they move? I knew we didn't move very fast! I've seen some huge ones there, one visible from Tampa looking across Tampa Bay to Clearwater, and it was just off shore in Clearwater. Awesome to see...as long as they are in the distance!

Dallas, Texas
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5. Re: Tornadoes

I've lived in southern California and tornado alley for most of my life. Both earthquakes and tornadoes scare the hell out of me. But when you live in those places most of the time nothing is happening, so you feel as safe as you do anywhere else.

I pulled three fascinating FAQs off the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration/Department of Commerce's FAQ page at www.spc.noaa.gov/faq/tornado/#The%20Basics

FAQ: What would happen if a large, violent tornado hit a major city today? This has happened on several occasions, including in parts of Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999. Because of excellent, timely watches and warnings and intense media coverage of the Oklahoma tornado long before it hit, only 36 people were killed. The damage toll exceeded $1 billion. Still, it did not strike downtown, and passed over many miles of undeveloped land. Moving the same path north or south in the same area may have led to much greater death and damage tolls. The threat exists for a far worse disaster! Placing the same tornado outbreak in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, especially during rush hour gridlock (with up to 62,000 vehicles stuck in the path), the damage could triple what was done in Oklahoma. There could be staggering death tolls in the hundreds or thousands, and overwhelmed emergency services. Ponder the prospect of such a tornado's path in downtown Dallas, for example. The North Texas Council of Governments and NWS Ft. Worth has compiled a very detailed study of several such violent tornado disaster scenarios in the Metroplex, which could be adapted to other major metro areas as well.

FAQ: What about tornado safety in sports stadiums or outdoor festivals? Excellent question -- and a very, very disturbing one to many meteorologists. Tornadoes have passed close to such gatherings on a few occasions, including a horse race in Omaha on 6 May 1975 and a crowded dog track in West Memphis AR on 14 December 1987. A supercell without a tornado hit a riverside festival in Ft. Worth in 1995, catching over 10,000 people outdoors and bashing many of them with hail bigger than baseballs. Just in the last few years, tornadoes have hit the football stadium for the NFL Tennessee Titans, and the basketball arena for the NBA Utah Jazz. Fortunately, they were both nearly empty of people at the time. There is the potential for massive death tolls if a stadium or fairground is hit by a tornado during a concert, festival or sporting event -- even with a warning in effect. Fans may never know about the warning; and even if they do, mass-panic could ensue and result in casualties even if the tornado doesn't hit. Stadium and festival managers should work with local emergency management officials to develop a plan for tornado emergencies -- both for crowd safety during the watch and warning stages, and (similar to a terrorism plan) for dealing with mass casualties after the tornado.

FAQ: There is an old legend that my town is protected from tornadoes by the (hill, river, spirit, etc.). Is there any truth to this? No. Many towns which have not suffered a tornado strike contain well-meaning people who perpetuate these myths; but there is no basis for them besides the happenstance lack of a tornado. Many other towns used to have such myths before they were hit, including extreme examples like Topeka KS (F5 damage, 16 killed, 1968) and Waco TX (F5 damage, 114 killed, 1953). Violent tornadoes have crossed rivers of all shapes and sizes. The deadliest tornado in US history (Tri-state Tornado of 18 March 1925, F5 damage, 695 killed) roared undeterred across the Mississippi River, as have numerous other violent tornadoes. Almost every major river east of the Rockies has been crossed by a significant tornado, as have high elevations in the Appalachians, Rockies and Sierra Nevada. The Salt Lake City tornado of 11 August 1999 crossed a canyon -- descending one side and rising up the other about halfway along its path. In 1987, a violent tornado (rated F4 by Fujita) crossed the Continental Divide in Yellowstone National Park.

Dallas, Texas
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6. Re: Tornadoes

I lived in Atlanta when a tornado went through the western and southern sectors. Again, lucky because it was in the early morning and mostly hit a light industrial area of the section where folks had not yet arrived for their workday, but it also went through a very ritzy section of Atlanta where the Governor's mansion is located.

In my neighborhood of early 1900's homes, several folks do have sort of half-basements, but most don't. We have mostly pier and beam construction, not because of rock solid earth under us, but because we have so much soil movement from the drought-flood extremes we have (or that's what I've been told). So most of us have crawl space under our houses, but no real protection.

My house has one tiny closet under the stairs that is the only room in the house that meets the standards of where to go when a tornado is in the area. If all four of us were home, we'd be very tightly spaced in that tiny closet, plus we'd have to pull out all the junk we throw in it before we could get in there. I know damned well if an tornado hit my neighborhood we'd only be okay if the tornado didn't hit our house.

I'll never forget the day my then five-year-old came home from school telling me he learned what to do in a tornado. He was very excited and so thrilled to tell me that we would go hide in the basement. The crestfallen, chagrined face of my child when I told him, "Oh, honey, we don't have a basement, but we can hide in the closet."

The tornado that hit downtown Fort Worth in May 1995 was horrifying and we were extremely lucky because of the time of day it hit. It could have been much, much more damaging in terms of human injury and death. There was a lot of warning of a bad storm coming so many people had left the downtown area early, and it didn't hit until after 6 PM.

When a bad storm hit Dallas that same May of 1995 (not the same day) we were at the Dallas Theater Center's production of "Santos y Santos" in the Arts District. The theater there was metal walls, a concrete floor, and a tin roof. It was a temporary type building that was essentially a great, big, old shed type thing. The lights went off several times, sometimes for many minutes, and when it did everything on stage stopped while we all waited. Hail was pelting the roof so loudly we missed large parts of the dialogue, but the actors just spoke more loudly to try to make themselves heard.. Sirens were constantly blaring--not the big ones for a tornado, but what seemed like hundreds of emergency vehicles. It sounded like all hell was breaking loose all around us, but everybody stayed put, and the show went on.

When the play was over the rain had stopped and we went out to massive swaths of devastation. There was traffic blocked on every major road in the downtown area. Normally, there would have been very, very few vehicles downtown. Because this is our neighborhood we were able to take back streets and get home through the mess.

Over 20 people drowned during the storm. There was $2 billion in damage from wind knocking trees over, hail, flooding, etc. The level 1 trauma center at Baylor was shut down due to flooding and for repairs which caused a major reshifting of emergency medcine for months. The Baylor ER is low lying and as I remember it was 4 - 5 feet deep in water within a matter of a few hours. The National Weather Service said it was the costliest storm in history.

As I said, it scares the hell out of me, but you don't live your life based on the scary things that can happen. You deal with them when they happen and the rest of the time you're just living your normal life.

Dallas, Texas
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7. Re: Tornadoes

OK, I admit it. I really need to go back to school. I love research (hence my profession in pharmaceutical research) and I've been doing a lot of research on storms lately and it's so much fun to share.

This is a really fascinating report of the first "tornado alert" issued.

nssl.noaa.gov/GoldenAnniversary/Historic.html

nowhere
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8. Re: Tornadoes

A lot of folks here in Oklahoma get special storm rooms installed under their garage floors. They have a low profile steel hatch for entry; you can just park over it when not in use.

I've heard that about tornados not hitting cities, too. But in the last ten years, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Fort Smith and have all been hit, so I'm not sure that there's much truth to the rumor.

Scotland
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9. Re: Tornadoes

Does Tornadoes have a season, please excuse me if a stupid question but I live in Scotland.

Big D
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10. Re: Tornadoes

Technically it's in the spring, but I remember hearing the sirens go off one day in the fall about 3 years ago.