By Jade Hall
Tornado season has already begun in Oklahoma, and to be honest I don’t really know what to expect, because I am not an Oklahoman. I was born and raised in the United Kingdom—a place where, if any tornadoes occur, they only destroy one street. As a kid I remember having a weather chart that explained that tornadoes are formed due to the friction of hot and cold air. I never fully understood the battle between the temperatures until recently.
Over the last few months I have been studying as an exchange student in Oklahoma, and I can tell you that the weather is unlike anything I have ever seen in the UK. Heavy rain showers get you drenched in minutes, lightening can spark in the sky without any rain or thunder, pretty icicles can form on trees in an ice storm but most significantly the temperature constantly rocks between a Mediterranean summer and a wild Scottish winter—there is no in-between. Seasons in Oklahoma barely exist.
Am I in for a surprise? Several Americans that I spoke to lately all start to laugh and joke about how I will be in Oklahoma during tornado season, but tornadoes are not a joke. They destroy buildings, livelihoods, and many innocent lives each year. However, the most worrying aspect is that tornadoes are extremely unpredictable, because there is no pattern from one year to the next. For example, in 2015 Norman saw 83 tornadoes form in May, whereas in 2016 during the same time only 24 tornadoes occurred. As an Oklahoman you should prepare for the worst.
However…there is no need to panic. There are ways to be prepared for a tornado.
Make a plan that includes taking safe shelter.
Decide ahead of time where you will go if there is a tornado headed your way. If a tornado warning is in place it will be blasted all over the news and social media. Also you may be able to hear a tornado siren. At this point get to your shelter as soon as possible. A shelter can be your basement, a designated tornado bunker, community shelter, or the most interior room in your house that has no glass windows and as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
Make an emergency kit that includes, water, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.
When a tornado hits you never know what destruction will occur. A food and drink supply could help you and other individuals especially when you are far away from natural disaster resources.
Furthermore, if anybody happens to cut or injury themselves when a tornado hits it is best to have your own personal first aid kit, so friends, relatives and kind strangers can act quickly at a time when medical services are under a lot of pressure.
Stay informed. Make sure you have a cell phone with a lasting battery.
Touchscreen phones may have made our lives a lot easier, but the battery life of an iPhone will never outlast a battery from a Nokia made in the 2000s. Make sure that you have an old cell that is fully charged in case of a blackout. Your phone is vital for keeping everyone up to date on your situation, so be sure to have any numbers of close family or friends stored in your emergency phone. Additionally, watch what is happening with storms in your area, so you’ll be aware if a tornado has developed. Local TV stations, radio and free phone apps, such as the Red Cross Emergency App, will help you stay informed
Only go home when the authorities give the all clear!
Listen to what the authorities tell you—you want to get back to normal, but only go back to your house when it is safe to do so.
I hope this has made you more knowledgeable about tornado awareness. Before I did any research, I visualized people seeking shelter under a table, but now I fully understand that there are safe shelters in numerous places that save hundreds of lives each year. I still haven’t experienced a tornado yet, but I now know how to prepare myself for one. It is easy to remember this advice in the acronym SKEL.
S – Shelter
K – Kit
E – Emergency cell
L – Listen