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Tornado season need-to-know

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration)

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Now that we are coming up on tornado season it is extremely important to reiterate the prominence of tornado safety within our community. Do you know what to do before, during and after a tornado hits? Do you know the difference between a tornado watch and warning? Understanding these concepts could dramatically mitigate the effects of a tornado on our community and your family.

Why should we give tornados attention when they seldom occur in our area? Statistics show that Curry County has experienced eight tornados since 2000. While they are still considered uncommon, it is a possibility for tornados to occur, potentially causing devastating and deadly results.

Tornadoes are typically caused when warm, humid winds traveling north from the Gulf of Mexico collide with cold, dry winds from the north blowing south. According to scientific facts, warm air always rises, but in a tornado’s case the cold air traps the warm air underneath it causing the horizontal rotation when the air masses meet.

It is also critical knowing the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch is issued when conditions are promising for tornados to develop. The tornado may not yet be imminent, but has the potential.

If a tornado watch is issued, be on the lookout for danger signs such as a dark, greenish sky, large hail, a loud roaring sound, and large, dark, low-lying clouds.

A tornado warning is released when a severe thunderstorm is in progress and members of the National Weather Service have spotted rotation on Doppler radar or when storm spotters have noticed a funnel cloud forming. At this point, you should prepare for a tornado to strike.

When you are preparing for a possible tornado, make sure there is a safe haven to protect yourself and your family. Great places to shelter include basements or small rooms without windows on the lowest level of the building. If all of these precautions have been taken before a tornado, you and your family should be as safe as possible if a tornado decides to come your way.

Building an emergency kit is also a vital factor to consider before a tornado hits. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), items you should include in your emergency kit consist of: water (approximately one gallon per person, per day for at least three days), food (non-perishable items such as canned and dried foods, and a can opener), battery powered (or hand crank powered) portable radio, flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, medicines, and a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

During a tornado, as long as you have taken the necessary safety measures to prepare beforehand, all you need to do is bunker down in your safe designated shelter area with your emergency kit. Also, make sure to protect your head while a tornado is blowing through.

If you happen to be outside and away from buildings, get into your vehicle and buckle yourself in tight. Make sure to also put your head down lower than the windows and cover it with some type of cloth to act as a cushion. This may mitigate the effects of shattering glass injuring you. If you happen to be without a vehicle or building, find a ditch or low level area to lie down. It is safer for you to lie in a ditch than to shelter under a bridge.

After the tornado, you will want to come out of your shelter and survey the area. Be cautious of possible broken glass or nails, fallen power or gas lines and avoid them as best as possible. Also, texting would be the best form of communication since phone calls may jam the networks. Only make phone calls if you need immediate medical assistance. Following these necessary precautions will inevitably keep you and your family safe, and ensure that those who are injured are able to receive the emergency care as quick as possible.

Now that you know what to do before, during and after a tornado you should be better prepared to protect yourself and your loved ones.

For more information on tornado preparedness, please visit www.beready.af.mil or www.fema.gov.

If you have additional questions or concerns, contact the 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management Flight at 575-784-1404.