As terrifying as they always are, tornado’s are survivable. Be smart and don’t panic.
Make no doubt about it. It may be amazing to watch from a distance. If you happen to see one, you may find yourself gazing at the sky in awe, but take my advise. Don’t gaze too long. Tornado’s come in all sizes, but each and every one is a monster which has the capacity to kill you. Remember the phrase, “Don’t mess around with mother nature?” Someone wise once said that for a reason.
April 10, 1979 came on a Tuesday. I was at home preparing dinner for my family and minding my own business like most people who lived in my hometown. Wichita Falls Texas is positioned within, “Tornado Alley,” so we were accustomed to tornado warnings. The, “watch,” had been issued that day, like most spring time days in north central Texas. Where I come from, we refer to the months of March, April and May as, “Tornado Season.”
I, like most every other Wichitan, didn’t pay much attention to the weather that day. It was around 5:30 pm and everyone was busy. Rush hour is not a good time to prepare for a natural disaster, but within an hour, the entire south side of our town was simply gone. The destruction was likened to an atomic bomb. The wind within exceeded three hundred miles per hour.
Obviously, I survived the most terrifying day of my life, but some didn’t. The fact that it was rush hour made surviving the three mile wide monster almost impossible for some, but we’ve since learned a few things about surviving tornados. Still, I’m surprised sometimes by the misconceptions that continue to give people a false sense of security when the sky turns mean.
1. “Tornados don’t come to my town.” Don’t count on it.
2. “Open the windows.” Wrong and very bad idea. While you are opening your windows, you may be killed. Stay completely away from the windows.
3. “Since I can see it, I can tell where it’s going.” Wrong again. Tornados don’t follow rules. They don’t show up with a contract that says, “I will only destroy everything from where I am to the east of me.” Believe me, a tornado will move in whatever direction it chooses too, which may be right to you.
4. “I’ll out run it if one comes.” That is probably the worst bad idea yet. The majority of lost lives in 1979 were due to people who were in their vehicles trying to out run a tornado so massive that no one could see where it began or ended.
5. “It sounds like a freight train.” The truth is that the sound of a freight train would be music to your ears during a tornado. It sounded more to me, like a DC-10 was taking off from my front lawn.
What to do:
1. Stay put. Don’t leave your home or the building you are in for any reason. Even if the monster is heading straight for you, your chances of surviving are hundreds times better by taking shelter within interior walls of a structure. A car, truck or even a semi-truck will be tossed around like a wadded up piece of paper.
2. Stay away from your windows and doors. Move to an area with interior walls, such as a closet or bathroom located in the middle of the building.
3. If you are outside with no shelter, lay flat on your face in the lowest area you can find. Stay away from vehicles if possible. Never stay inside any vehicle of any kind.
4. Cover your head with your arms if that’s all you have.
5. If you are in a mobile home of any kind or size, leave immediately. You’d be safer outside than within a mobile home.
How to Prepare:
Have your spot designated ahead of time. Place a flashlight, transistor radio and a pair of shoes. I know it sounds strange, but I knew of several people who were barefoot when the tornado of 79 came along. They were forced to traipse over glass and debris with nothing to protect their feet. If a watch is issued, get dressed It’s always better to be safe than sorry.