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Q & A: Dangers of tornados

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
What are some of the dangers of a tornado? I also have another question. What are some safety tips for a tornado you might be able to provide me with?
- Claire (age 13)
Tornadoes are the nastiest kind of weather around. Only hurricanes and floods cause more damage, and the only reason for that is that they affect larger areas. Most kinds of houses, when hit by a tornado, will be demolished. Nearby houses may be left untouched (or maybe not). Cars can be lifted and thrown. Smaller items have been carried tens of miles by tornado winds.

The biggest safety hazard from being in the path of a tornado is being struck by flying debris, which may be traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. Even the smallest of items, like a nail or a rock, may turn into a deadly projectile. The best thing to do when a tornado comes is to go down into a basement area away from windows which will shatter and away from things that can be picked up and thrown by the wind. Door frames are often cited as good places to be because they may not collapse as easily and they offer some protection against debris. It's a good idea to cover your head and eyes. A heavy mattress or sleeping bag will help protect you from flying stuff. It is dangerous to be either in a car or a mobile home -- you will probably be safer outside in a low area, away from these (they could be picked up and dropped on you, of course!).

Debris may be weak and may collapse after the tornado has passed, presenting a different hazard. Gas and water pipes maybe broken, creating a fire or flood hazard. Some debris may be poisonous. Be very careful with the debris after a tornado has passed!

Here is a from the National Oceonogrpahic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Tom J.

(published on 10/22/2007)

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