Be Straight With Me. Is There Really Something I Can Do About a Tornado?

Categories: Schutze

tornadosound.jpg
Wikipedia
This things sounds like my dishwasher.

Yesterday afternoon was scary. True story: I was at home. I go to the kitchen to watch the rain lash the driveway. I can hear the tornado sirens. Well, sirens.

Then, the rain stops. Sirens stop. Silence. Suddenly, I hear the dreaded "sounded like a freight train" sound -- a kind of low rumbling whirring roar, but way off in the distance. Way off.

I go outside on the front porch and listen. Nothing. My neighbor drives by and waves. Awfully damn plucky. I go back inside and return to the kitchen. There it is again. Aha! It was the dishwasher cycling on.

So all's well that ends well, I guess, but when I thought the damn sounded-like-a-freight-train sound was boring down on me, I was faced with the prospect of taking the dogs with me into our usual tornado shelter -- a pantry off the kitchen. It's so jammed full of hurtling missiles -- jarred pasta sauce, shish-kebab skewers, heavy ceramic vases -- I always figure by the time they find my body they'll take it for an artificial Christmas tree.

But where the hell else should I go? When the worst of it had passed, I went back to my computer and did a search for all the best state-of-the-art advice available anywhere in the Googlesphere on what to do if you hear the sounded-like-a-freight-train sound and you're sure it's not the dishwasher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warn us to, "avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects, such as pianos or refrigerators, on the area of floor that is directly above you."

Had not thought of that. Much appreciated.

The CDC also tells people, "If you live in a mobile home, go to a nearby building, preferably one with a basement."

Great idea. But it does seem like one of those things people would have done if they could have done. In the first place.

The CDC also says, "On the Road: The least desirable place to be during a tornado is in a motor vehicle. Cars, buses, and trucks are easily tossed by tornado winds."

I call that the "kiss your ass good-bye" advice. But when that's the advice you need, that's the advice you need.

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says, "In a mobile home: Get out!"

They're in Norman, Oklahoma. They know what they're talking about.

The National Disaster Education Coalition in Washington, D.C, says, "Get under something sturdy, or use a large, hard-cover book to help protect your head and neck."

Educators!

They also say, "If you're outside in a car or in a mobile home, go immediately to the basement of a nearby sturdy building."

A lot of car advice has a similar theme. Basically, it's kiss your ass goodbye.

The Disaster Education Coalition also says, "If you see quickly rising water or flood water coming towards you, move to another spot."

To my disappointment, they do not provide numbers for how many people are born not already knowing that. Seriously. That would be interesting.

Someone asks the Tornado Project Online in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, "Would a crawl space under a house be a safe place to go when a tornado comes? Why or why not?"

The Tornado Project Online answers, "A crawl space doesn't seem like a safe place."

Doesn't seem like? They're the ones calling themselves the Tornado Project Online.

They do go on to say, "Tornadoes often shift houses on their foundations, maybe only a few feet. ... Also, creatures such as snakes, that you wouldn't want to meet, have been found in crawl spaces."

Seems like a good time to get over phobias, although in my neighborhood what you find down there is homeless people.

The Tornado Project Online also advises people, "If you see a tornado and it is not moving to the right or to the left relative to trees or power poles in the distance, it may be moving towards you!"

Or away. Is that a Democrat/Republican thing?

"Remember," The Tornado Project Online says, "that although tornadoes usually move from southwest to northeast, they also move towards the east, the southeast, the north, and even northwest."

Yup. Back to kiss your ass goodbye.

Cars are definitely the most controversial tropic in all the advice I looked at. Wikitravel.org tells people, "If you are in your automobile and you see a tornado coming, don't try to out-run it. Tornadoes can easily outrun a car driving into a 100 mph headwind. Your safest option is to leave the car and get in a sturdy building. If that is not available, get out of the car and get in a low area such as a culvert, drain pipe or ditch."

But the National Weather Service says, "Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter."

Everybody tells you to run as fast as you can from mobile homes, almost as if they are what causes tornadoes in the first place. Even Wikitravel, the people who told you to abandon your car and go lie in ditch, say, "A car is probably safer than a mobile home."

In other words, get out of your car and lie in a ditch, unless you own a mobile home, in which case, get into your car and put the pedal to the metal.

Makes sense to me.

One of the more interesting approaches to tornado safety was from the website of a group called "Newspapers in Education." I actually thought they had gone out of business years ago after it was revealed most of the daily newspapers that were donating copies to schools were doing it as a scam to falsify their circulation numbers. But here they are with a tornado safety education curriculum for school children, purporting to teach kids to be "Tornado Safe."

I'm for that.

They say the curriculum uses "Weather Clues transparency sheets" to teach children how to "recognize the weather clues for possible tornadoes," "role-play their assigned weather clues from the handout" and "use music to examine the feelings storms may elicit."

I have a clue: First, run outside and get in that huge green recycling Dumpster full of unread newspapers that's always parked behind your school. Then maybe the music.

Everybody has their own spin. The Humane Society, unsurprisingly, tells us, "If you have to evacuate, take your pets and their emergency supplies with you. Even if you think you will only be gone for a few hours, take your pets. You have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able to go back for your pets."

Especially if you're dead.

And, oh my gosh, here's the damn National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration back again on another site, this time telling me to stay in my car: "If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado."

They say, "If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on."

Seat belt? I'm flying around in my car like Elmira Gulch on her bicycle in Wizard of Oz, but I need a seatbelt? Fine. Done. And a hardcover book over my head. Whatever you say. But before I go back for the pets, can I take one second to kiss my ass good-bye? I feel so guilty. I never told it I loved it.



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56 comments
hankblackgraphics
hankblackgraphics

Hah!1 Weather hyper-sensitivity and alarmism used to make me laugh.  But know it is so ubiquitous, it concerns me.  Is this part of a deliberate plan to make us fearful sheeple?

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

To answer your question, Jim, the only thing you can really do about tornados is try to avoid them, and if you do, then find who to blame for the tornados.

I suggest the Koch brothers.

But remember, when you issue your report blaming them, be sure to include enough footnote to essentially say "we don't really know" because journalists don't read footnotes.

Greg820
Greg820

Stop horning in on Gavin's action, Jim.  

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I know that I have seen plans online for converting a walk in closet into a tornado shelter, or just building one in your garage. It generally involves cement, rebar and cinder blocks.

If you don't have something like that, and interior room with no windows is good. I have a bathroom with a cast iron tub. That is my shelter of choice.


BTW, when I lived in east Texas, had 2 tornadoes pass to either side of the mobile home I was living in. That was a very scary situation.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Watched two in Arlington, the ones that hit a church in the Dalworthington area before taking shelter. My then-wife's office in Bank One tower was wasted by another, and the small one that hit the ballpark in Arlington then skipped over I-30 did some decent damage to my apartment complex, ripped my front door off and scared the hell out of my brother who was visiting from LA.

Been through hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, blizzards, floods. I just love that shit.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Damn nature, you scary!


Get away from the glass.  Get as many walls between you and the tornado as you can, so that when they all collapse they make a little pocket where you are.  Your pantry probably isn't a bad idea, because that sounds like two layers of walls and no glass around. 

tim.wilkes
tim.wilkes

Might as well go out charging the tornado with a broadsword all 300 style (-299).

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

Just remember, the tornado is more afraid of you than you are of it.



holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

You always hurt the one you love, I suppose.  So government advises people to not get in their cars, huh?

Houston ordered the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history in 2005 as Hurricane Rita bore down on the MSA.  Local emergency preparedness government entities forced over 2.4 million Houstonians into their cars, gridlocking the freeway system for the crucial 24 hours prior to landfall.  But the cops toughed it out too - by blocking the citizens from returning to their "sturdier" homes.  Over one million Houstonians rode Rita out in their cars, unable to get passed Beltway 8.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

When the sirens went off yesterday the cats bolted and hid under the bed; even Big Kitty.  I've never seen her haul ass like that. 

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

Some of this conflicting advice serves a useful purpose if some poor slob gets killed. Everyone can say that the idiot did not follow the proper advice and deserved to be trimmed from the herd.  That way we can all feel superior, unafraid and not just lucky that the funnel cloud did not hit us.      

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Tornadoes do not travel at 100mph. Usually about 30. This makes people think they can outrun them. But many times they change direction abruptly or there aint a convenient road. Best not tempt fate.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Why is the CDC offering tornado advice? Shouldn't they be focused on, I don't know, diseases?

DOisDUMDUM
DOisDUMDUM

Stream of consciousness = the rambling shit you think of while you are waking up to piss in the middle of the night?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  

I suppose he could advocate green tech whilst hanging an old white guy face on a twister.  Hollywood could do another Twister movie where Dick Cheney's curling lips swirl forth consuming every ethnicity save his own.

After all.

It's only the optics that count in the partnering playbook.

mcdallas
mcdallas

Please help spread this unofficial rumor.  Also, enjoy the song.  

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Tim.Covington

So, what happened to the two mobile homes on either side of you, did they become mobile?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  my wife was over on S Bowen at the time, I was at work and had no idea if it hit where she was and phone service was down for an hour.  Luckily for her, it swung just west of her but nailed that poor old folks home

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@homantx

According to the White House, the best defense against tornadoes is a twitter campaign.

#donthitmyhouse.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@holmantx Not to get into thir cars -- yes!

A hurricane is not at all like a tornado. You don't get a day or two of warning. You might get 10 minutes if you're very, very lucky. But probably not. 

The path will be a few hundred feet to a half-mile wide and will be wildly unpredictable. And fast -- 60 mph. Like trying to dodge a car that's weaving all over the place. 

A tornado can easily lift a car, as much as a hundred feet into the air. When it puts it down, there's nothing much left. Meantime the windows have shattered into a jillion lethal missles and you're strapped down in the line of fire..

Wanna see what happens to folks who try to out-drive a tornado?  Read Brantley Hargrove's DO piece a few months back. And these people were storm chasers --experts!!

Your government isn't always wrong, holman.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@holmantx Hey the government can say they did their part and the people should have evacuated sooner.  Plausible Denial ability CYA

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

So, basically you're telling us that cats are not reliable predictors of tornadoes, they're just easily frightened by unfamiliar noises.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@ozonelarryb  The problem isn't the tornado's movement, the problem is the wind around the tornado.  It is moving in excess of 100mph before you get to the actual funnel wall.  That's the problem -- you're trying to drive away in a car that is being pummeled by hurricane force straight line winds.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@ozonelarryb  umm where did you hear that.  Some naders travel very slowly, others move very fast.  Either way, if you see the Tornado, you are probably in danger

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@P1Gunter  Makes as much sense as how they weigh in on guns and the climate.  They are about as reliable on these subjects as well, I would suspect.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@P1Gunter  living in a trailer park is a disease born from the disease of taking Obama handouts and never bettering yourself!  There, did i get the talking points right?  


The previous is meant as humor and not actual opinions of myself, the DallasObserver or ScottsMerkin.  Yes I just went third person, and I enjoy writing down my own personal streams of consciousness, although not while waking up to piss in the middle of the night. 

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Just be thankful it wasn't a column on DISD.

James080
James080

@DOisDUMDUM  

Stream of Consciousness = It's f-ing Friday, I'm gonna just phone it in today and kick back....

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@homantx

Might work.

However, I think, since tornadoes tend to target the middle class, that perhaps we should tax the hell out of any of them caught in the path, and if they perish, tax the surviving family members.

Watch tornado deaths plummet.

Another alternative is a grassroots twitter campaign organized by the White House, maybe #stopbigwind or something, and those tweets could also be taxed.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@TheRuddSki  This was middle of nowhere east Texas, so no other homes for about a 1/2 mile in any direction.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

I was in Dallas, heard that the tower may have been hit, so I called, no answer.

The wife had been working OT on a case for almost 6 weeks, on that day she left a little early, car parked at the old Tandy lot at bottom of the hill the hill. How she didn't see it in her rearview is beyond me.

Finally reached her at the house, she hadn't heard a thing about it. Her office was totally destroyed. Paperwork was found up to 100 miles away.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bmarvel  

Rita spawned 31 tornadoes.

shelter in place.

You missed the point.  It was government who forced millions to get in their cars and evacuate.  No choice.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Right, if you get caught. Avg ground speed 30 to 35. If you can stay a mile or so away, you can be reasonably safe. But if road not avail straight line, your flight sleed at an angle must be much higher.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@P1Gunter  no shit!  I would have quit 1 paragraph in, but being this was about tornadoes, I read the whole effing thing

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@holmantx

I'm seeing various indications that Michelle is quite the demanding authoritarian Queen. One of those sources is a high-level White House operative who, though he lies almost daily, is known to be reliable source.

Post-presidency tell-all books should be pretty interesting - unless he is succeeded by a democrat of course.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@TheRuddSki  

Hillary, during the Clinton years, was code-named "Twister" by the military because of her propensity to twist off.  She hated the military guys in the White House.  Reportedly, you just had to either get out of her way or shelter in place (ha!).  Some would just break and run for their cars despite the risk.  Fugitives in a rout.

Now, get a mental picture of a running loop of Hillary doing that caterwaul-eyed "what difference does it make!" ala a vintage Hitleresque Mein Kampf speech and man!  you got a campaign slogan - "If she's Prez, there's no escape from this Twister."

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Tim.Covington

Luckily for you, those were pretty dumb tornados.

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@holmantx @bmarvelSpeaking of the "use of federal troops on U.S. civilians," holman, when a group of those civilians refused to pay a federal tax on whiskey, George Washington did not hesitate a moment to send troops -- actually state militia that had been federalized -- to put down this affront to federal power.

The use of federal troops in domestic situations has a long history, sometimes honorable and sometimes not. One other example, among many: In 1914, President Wilson sent federal troops to Colorado -- at the governor's request -- to intervene in a bloody labor war between striking coal miners on the one hand and the Colorado State Militia and the Rockefeller interests on the other.


  

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bmarvel  

Hell, you even sided with the abandonment of Posse Comitatus and the use of federal troops on U.S. civilians in CONUS.

You are no different than a Loyalist.

Useless.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bmarvel @holmantx  

Oh bullshit.  You feign the middle for a futile stab at credability but swing Left every time.  You call the people names and belittle them, then send in the troops - every time.

And the issue is whether the populace can and should be ORDERED to evacuate and detained if they don't and you side (oh shocker) with ordering people to get in their cars - in both Katrina and Rita.  So go wash your face.  Look in the mirror.

Advise the people regarding natural disasters on the way (floods, hurricane or tornadic events), provide evacuation routes, guard their possessions from looting when they elect to leave, advise the people there will be no rescue attempts until the danger has subsided for the resuers, but under no circumstances do you order people to evacuate if they decide to ride it out by sheltering in place.  

It is not your, or government's, friggin call, in a free society.


bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@holmantx @bmarvelIf you didn't have the readymade categories of "liberal" and "conservative" to think about, holman, I don't believe you could think at all.

Some things are best left to individuals. Others -- a  disaster affecting thousands of people in a wide area -- demand collective action. It beats me why certain people whose minds are dominated by partisan politics of the narrowest sort, can't get their brains around this. But they can't. And so we get this every-man-for-himself way of thinking. If you can call it thinking.  

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bmarvel @holmantx  

Too funny.  In both cases you blame the individual and favor government.  Forced evacuations no matter the damage because it just cannot be left to individual responsibility.

And in both cases government action failed or exacerbated the situation.

Yet you remain pious and blame sheep.

Modern liberalism, at its core, is an ideology of talking, not doing.  Then labeling the people as too ignorant to either get out of the way or (gasp!) shelter in place.  Either way, you criticize your fellow American as incapable and incompetent without government direction.

Maybe you should just throw up a Twitter hashtag showing that you care.  Something like #HepMeHepMe.gov

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@holmantx @bmarvelI guess I just don't have much patience with folks whose first instinct is to blame government. Folks knew the hurricane was coming for days, yet they waited for the last minute to evacuate.  Then they complained about the chaos.

I covered New Orleans post-Katrina. That city could have used a whole lot more government interference, before, during and after. 

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@ozonelarryb ozonelarry is right, Phelps is wrong. 

The indraft is severe only a short distance from the actual visible funnel. The problem is that a tornado moves unpredictably and the funnel can suddenly grow by several orders of magnitude -- what happened to the chasers in the fatal Oklahoma tornado.

And tornadoes sometimes travel in pairs or have multiple vortices.

Don't count on that 30 mph ground speed, either. 40-50-60 mph tornadoes are not uncommon, and you add the ground speed to the rotation speed going in, or coming out.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Why must you argue against things I did not say?

Tornadoes are very concentrated. Probably 1 or 2 radii away, survivable winds. But keep moving.

If you are driving away, you will leave danger sone quickly. If you have a headwind, you are driving in the right direction, or you are way too close.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@ozonelarryb  Not "if you get caught."  If you even get close.  The hurricane level winds (60+) extend for quite a ways outside the funnel cloud, where the winds are 150+.  


That's the problem.  People see the funnel cloud and think they are OK if they beat that, but they are already inside headwinds too strong to drive against.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

They is the cdc. I can't help you with basic reading comprehension and the English language. You are on your own there.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Right there with you. When the headline says DISD I generally just ignore the article. I would rather read that column on lightbulbs.

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