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Answers to Frequently Asked Tornado Questions
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Emergency Overview | Emergency Numbers | Alert Sign-Up | Severe Weather


 

 

 

TORNADO WATCH

This means that conditions are such that storms capable of producing a tornado may develop in the next few hours.

TORNADO WARNING

This means that either a tornado has been sighted or that it is highly probable that one will develop. The warning will be signaled by the storm warning sirens.

DURING A TORNADO WATCH: Move smaller objects indoors. Grills, bicycles, patio furniture, and lawn mowers can become missiles in tornadic winds and cause additional damage. Stay close to your TV or radio to see if a tornado warning is imminent. Go to a shelter when it begins to storm--don't wait until the sirens are sounded.

TORNADO TAKE-COVER SIGNAL is a steady wail on the storm sirens followed by a 2 second pause lasting for a total of 8 cycles.  This signal will be sounded on the large sirens placed throughout the city of Tulsa. (If the sirens sound again, it is further warning--NOT all clear.)

PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE
In spring and early fall, when tornados are most likely to occur in Oklahoma, be aware of your surroundings and the current environment and the different possibilities that may occur.  Then make appropriate decisions based on what is happening or has the potential to happen.  Here is a likely scenario:

  1. I checked the forecast this morning before I left my apartment to drive to class.   The possibility of severe thunderstorms was mentioned.
  2. It is a warm and very humid day.
  3. There is a strong southerly wind blowing.
  4. There is static from time to time on my radio.
  5. There is a big, dark cloud in the southwest sky.

Based on your assessment of the environment and the possibility of severe weather, here are actions you can take:

  1. I should take a portable radio with me today.
  2. Between classes, I should use my radio to check what is going on with the weather.
  3. As I go to my classes, I keep in mind whether the building I am in has a basement or not.
  4. When it begins to storm, I must be aware of my shelter options. 
  5. When the storm sirens begin to sound (or I hear a warning announcement on my radio) I must seek shelter immediately.

Everyone must assess for themselves what their risk is.  In this age of increasingly instant communication, it is possible to have enough information to be aware of the presence of severe weather.

IN THE OFFICE OR CLASSROOM
Have you given any thought about what to do in case the tornado warning sirens sound during office hours? Does your office staff know where to go? What should instructors tell their students?

When the fire alarm sounds, everyone knows to immediately get out of the building. When the storm warning sirens sound, it is best NOT to leave the building. Obviously, it is better to seek shelter in a basement. If the building you are in has no basement, or if there is no nearby building with a basement, go to the lowest floor and get in a small interior room or hallway. Stay away from glass and exterior walls; put as many walls between you and storm as you can. (If you go outside to watch the show, you might become part of the cast.)

Please share these facts with your office staff and others in your department or division. Encourage everyone to make plans for where they will go when severe weather strikes during class or office hours.

SOME BUILDINGS HAVE BASEMENTS
If you are on campus Monday through Friday, during a normal work day (8:00-5:00), the best places to seek shelter are in buildings with basements.

If the building you are in has no basement, or the basement is not accessible, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. (Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.) Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. It is generally too risky to go to another building once the sirens have sounded, so check out the building you are in before a warning is issued to see if it has a basement and whether that basement is accessible.

IF YOU ARE HANDICAPPED
Handicapped persons who are mobility impaired must also make plans. If a power outage occurs during severe weather, elevators may not work. Always go to a small interior room or closet; stay away from windows and exterior walls. Plan ahead and become aware of accessible shelters on campus.

IF YOU ARE IN AN OFF-CAMPUS APARTMENT, OR OTHER HOUSING
When the storm warning sirens sound, it is best NOT to leave your home unless better shelter is just a minute or two away. If your house does not have a basement, go to the lowest floor and get in a small interior room or hallway. (If you have time, you might get in the bathtub and pull a mattress over the tub.) Stay away from glass and exterior walls.
Some of you may remember an old rule that said opening windows would "equalize pressure." This is iffy at best, and a waste of precious time. Leave the windows alone and get as far away from them as you can. If you are in a mobile home, seek shelter elsewhere. Mobile homes are notoriously unstable and are frequently destroyed during tornados. If there is no storm shelter nearby, go outside and find a ditch or depression and lie flat, face down, with your hands on the back of your head.

IF YOU ARE IN ... WALMART, FOR EXAMPLE
If you are in a gymnasium, auditorium, or theater (most likely full of people), follow the instructions of those in authority and don't run in panic. Large open-span areas such as these are subject to collapse, so it is best to seek shelter in a hallway or small room. This is also true of large stores like Wal-Mart or supermarkets. In those situations, if there is no time to seek better shelter, go to the very back of the store--away from any large areas of glass--crouch down, and cover your head.

IF YOU ARE IN A MOVING VEHICLE
If you are in a motor vehicle, don't try to out-run the storm. Tornados do not travel in a predictable direction, and some are faster than others. Don't stay in your vehicle-- it's worse than a mobile home. In addition, driving in a city is very dangerous because everyone will be ignoring traffic laws in a rush to get to shelter. If there is no nearby building, find a ditch or depression (well away from your car) and lie flat, face down, with your hands on the back of your head.
If you see an overpass nearby, DO NOT consider it as shelter.  Overpasses are very dangerous because they offer no protection from the blast of flying debris in the violently shifting winds of a tornado.  Read NOAA's report on Highway Overpasses as Tornado Shelters (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/papers/overpass.html) for more information.

PLAN AHEAD
The time to plan for tornados is now. Department heads and their employees should seek out the best place for everyone to take shelter if the storm happens during working hours. Everybody should make similar plans at home. Make sure you have a portable radio and flashlight (with extra batteries), a first-aid kit (along with any necessary medications), sturdy shoes and work gloves, bottled water, and canned food (don't forget the can opener).

Tornado shelters can save lives. Designs and engineering drawings are available from the Wind Engineering Research Center, (http://www.wind.ttu.edu) at Texas Tech University.  Just call 1-888-565-3896 and ask for the booklet, "Taking Shelter From the Storm" (FEMA 320), which is free of charge.   This phone number was established exclusively for requests for this booklet.   Just follow the instructions to leave your name and address and you will receive a copy of FEMA 320 in the mail.

For added protection, a qualified contractor can fasten down the roof of your house with metal hurricane clips or straps attached to the top plates or beams. You can also download plans for a tornado room from the Federal Emergency

Management Agency  (http://www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/saferoom/fema320.shtm), 500 C St. SW, Washington DC 20472, or call FEMA at 800-480-2520.

STORM SIREN TESTING

  • All storm sirens in the city of Tulsa are tested every Wednesday around 12:00 p.m.  If it is cloudy or rainy the test will be cancelled for that day to avoid any confusion.