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Spring Weather Wreaks Havoc - Are You Prepared?

With flooding, tornadoes and lingering snow storms continuing to threaten the United States, the American Red Cross has steps you can take to deal with this early spring weather.

Thunderstorms continue to drench the East Coast, bringing large amounts of rain and the potential for flooding along streams, rivers and low-lying areas from Virginia to southern Maine. Flood watches and warnings are in effect.

Overnight, tornadoes touched down in North Carolina and Virginia, causing power outages and evacuation of residents.

The Red Cross has opened shelters in New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina to help those affected by the flooding and tornadoes. Fourteen residents in North Carolina spent last night in a shelter after a tornado touched down in Guilford and Davidson counties. Canteen services are also being provided to emergency responders.

Tornadoes are prevalent in the spring months, with May and June being the peak months. Now is the time to take the following steps to prepare for a tornado. Print out this Tornado Safety Checklist and take the recommended steps to protect yourself and your family.

Know the difference:

Tornado Watch Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!

Tornado Warning A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Before a Tornado:

  • During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about watches and warnings.
  • Know your community's warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

During a Tornado:

  • The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
  • If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
    • Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
    • Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
  • If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
  • Do not wait until you see the tornado.

After a Tornado:

  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Wear long pants, a long­-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Use battery-­powered flashlights when examining buildings—do NOT use candles.
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly and call the gas company or fire department.