Forewarned is forearmed: What to do in the event of a tornado
Tuesday’s tornado may have come as a surprise to some, but the rare weather phenomenon has happened before. Between 1998 and 2011, five tornadoes have hit South Africa leaving death and destruction in their wake.
The South African Weather services says tornadoes can occur basically anywhere where a thunderstorm is possible. In South Africa, most tornados have occurred in Gauteng, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal (along a line from Pietermaritzburg to Ladysmith) and the northern region of the former Transkei.
Now that we’ve established that they can and do happen, how much do you know about what you can do to protect yourself during a storm? Here’s a list of things to do and not do. The tips below were provided by The Weather Channel, and the government of Canada.
If you are in a house
- Go to the basement or take shelter in a small interior ground floor room such as a bathroom, wardrobe or corridor.
- Protect yourself by taking shelter under a heavy table or desk.
- In all cases, stay away from windows, outside walls, doors and glass doorways.
- You can cushion yourself with a mattress, but don’t cover yourself with one. Cover your head and eyes with a blanket or jacket to protect against flying debris and broken glass. Don’t waste time moving mattresses around.
If you are in an office or apartment building
- Take shelter in an inner corridor or room, ideally in the basement or on the ground floor.
- Do not use elevators.
- Stay away from windows.
If you are in a church or shopping mall
- Large buildings with wide-span roofs may collapse if a tornado hits.
- If possible, find shelter in another building.
- If you are in one of these buildings and cannot leave, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk.
- Try to get inside a building as quickly as possible and find a small, protected space away from windows.
- Avoid buildings with long-span roof areas such as a shopping mall, as these structures are usually supported only by outside walls. When hit by a tornado, buildings like these can collapse, because they cannot withstand the pressure of the storm.
- If you cannot find a place to go inside, crouch for protection next to a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a jacket, if you have one.
If you are driving
- If you spot a tornado in the distance go to the nearest solid shelter. Don’t try to out-drive the tornado.
- If the tornado is close, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area, such as a ditch.
In all cases
- Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris.
- Do not chase tornadoes — they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly.
- A tornado is deceptive. It may appear to be standing still but is, in fact, moving toward you. – mg.co.za