People across the Southeast were keenly aware of the area’s secondary tornado season when destructive storms were reported in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and North and South Carolina earlier this week. American Red Cross chapters in Alabama and the Carolinas responded, opening shelters and sending emergency vehicles out to distribute food and snacks to first responders and those affected.
While spring is the time of year known for dangerous tornado activity in the United States, some parts of the country also experience a secondary tornado season in the fall and winter months. The Red Cross urges everyone to remember tornadoes can form at any time of the year, and offers steps people can take to be safer should a tornado hit their neighborhood.
The recent severe weather caused significant damage to vehicles and homes and caused power outages throughout the area. The Red Cross is working with state and local officials to help ensure residents in the affected neighborhoods receive the assistance they need.
Experts report many November tornadoes are surprising and dangerous because they form during the night or early morning hours. Although spring weather offers the most dangerous combination of jet stream energy and surface instability, the weather conditions in the fall and winter can also produce some strong tornadoes.
A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in the area. People should be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or someone suspects a tornado is approaching. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated on radar. People should immediately go underground to a basement, storm cellar or interior room of the house.
Some signs of a tornado include dark, often greenish clouds, a wall of clouds or cloud of debris, large hail, a funnel cloud or roaring noise. Steps people should remember if a tornado warning is issued include:
- Go to an underground shelter or safe room if available. A hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is also a safe alternative.
- Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or vehicle, get out of the mobile home immediately and go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter.
- If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
- If you can’t walk to a shelter quickly, immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
- If debris is flying while you are driving, pull over and park. You can stay in the car with the seat belt on, putting your head down below the windows, covering your head with your hands and a blanket if possible.
- Or, if you can get safely to an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, get out of the car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.
For more information on what to do before, during and after a tornado, visit the Preparedness section of www.redcross.org.