03/15/06 — Peak tornado season approaching

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Peak tornado season approaching

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 15, 2006 1:48 PM

Tornados are one of nature's most violent phenomena. Tornadoes typically occur in March, April and May with a secondary peak in November but they can happen any time of year.

Violent tornadoes with winds in excess of 200 mph have struck as early as late March and as late as November.

Over the last 10 years, nearly 400 tornadoes have hit North Carolina resulting in several deaths, injuries and over $230 million dollars in damage. Fortunately, most tornadoes that strike our area are relatively weak and short-lived. However, even weak tornadoes pack winds of 60 to 110 mph.

In essence, a tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can occur virtually any time of year and any time of the day or night. Most deaths and injuries happen outdoors, in automobiles and mobile homes.

When a tornado warning is issued for your area or if you spot a tornado -- seek shelter in a substantial building. The safest place is an interior bathroom or closet. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Stay away from windows as debris picked up by a tornado can easily shatter a window and enter your house.

If you are caught outdoors -- seek shelter in a low spot like a ditch or culvert. You want to get as low as possible to protect yourself from all of the flying debris in a tornado. It's this debris that causes nearly all injuries and deaths.

If in your car and threatened by a tornado -- abandon your vehicle and seek shelter in a substantial structure or in a ditch. Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle. Tornadoes do not always travel in straight lines and it's difficult to figure out where one is going to go.

Also, never seek shelter from a tornado under an overpass. There is no safe place under an overpass. In fact seeking shelter under an overpass puts you at more risk from violent winds and flying debris.

The National Weather Service will issue tornado watches when conditions are favorable for thunderstorms to produce tornadoes.

Once a tornado is spotted or detected by radar -- the National Weather Service will issue a tornado warning. Any time a tornado warning is issued for your area, take action to protect your life as well as the lives of your family.