On Wednesday, the tornado sirens sounded across Miami and Johnson Counties. A funnel touched down in Louisburg along 69 HWY, overturning a truck, and virtually bounced back up into the sky, heading due north and not touching down again until it was in Johnson County. The driver of the vehicle was okay, and with Joplin and Oklahoma City on everyone's mind, Miami County breathed a heavy sigh of relief. We'd dodged a bullet.
So what can we do to prepare for storms such as these? First of all, don't be the idiot who ushers the entire family outside to watch for the tornado. By the time you see it, IF you see it, it will be much too late to get your family to safety. Don't get me wrong, I love watching storms as much as the next person (maybe even a little bit more!), but when it is a choice between the safety of my children and standing outside to watch green skies while sirens are blaring across the countryside, my children come first (and telling them to go to the basement while mommy stands outside is only going to create panic among the little ones).
Stay away from windows and other glass objects. Get away from areas where things can fall on top of you. The ideal place to go in the event of a tornado is beneath ground-level, into a storm shelter or basement. If you don't have either of these, get into the innermost room in the house (typically a hall bathroom or closet). If you are in a bathroom, get into the tub. Use heavy blankets or pillows to cover yourself and place your hands and arms over your head to protect yourself from potential flying debris. This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway. Make sure you've closed the door!
Nowadays, the public usually has a very good idea of what the weather holds in store for the day. The Weather Channel, Fox 4 KC, and local radio stations provide you with updated weather forecasts throughout the day, many of which even provide their viewers/listeners with online access to current radar for the area. If it looks like you're going to be in for some bad storms, you are generally going to know about it ahead of time. Make preparations then, rather than risk your life or the lives of your loved ones if and when the ---- hits the fan.
Create an emergency kit and keep it stored where you will be taking cover in the event of dangerous weather. When sirens go off, you won't necessarily have time to go searching for your emergency kit to take with you. You'll need to get your family to safety immediately. So it's definitely a smart idea to keep this where you are actually going to be taking shelter from the storm.
Your emergency kit should contain:
- Bottled Water. [FYI-You can pick up a small jug of Ozarka water at Wal-Mart or Price Chopper for right around $1.00 (give or take a few pennies).]
- Important Documents. (Birth certificates, vehicle titles, insurance paperwork, etc. should be moved to a safe location where they will have the greatest chance of being protected from the storm. A fire-proof safe that is water resistant and can be bolted to the floor is probably the best place. However, if you don't have access to one of these, consider getting a safe deposit box at the bank, or a small fire-proof safe that you can store a few documents in and slide into a hall closet or stash in the basement. You can generally pick one of these up at places like Wal-Mart, Target, or even Home Depot for $30-$60.)
- Battery Operated Weather Radio. (This should be pretty self-explanatory!)
- Flashlight(s). (Duh!)
- Extra batteries. (Again, this should be able to go unsaid, but make sure the extra batteries you have are NEW and are the correct size for the radio and flashlight!)
- Blankets, thick towels, and/or pillows. (Not only are you going to need something to cover yourself and the kids up with to protect you from flying debris such as glass and from the rain, but it will help keep everyone warm and dry as well as possible.
- Joe and I take a small stash of snacks for the kids (crackers, cheerios, poptarts) downstairs "just in case."
- If you have little ones, don't forget to take some diapers and baby wipes into your designated shelter area before the storm hits.
Turning off the gas line is also a good idea!
The emergency kit should be small/compact, since you likely are not going to have a lot of room in your shelter area. If you don't have anything ready and a bad storm hits-take cover! the most important thing you could ever have in that shelter is you and your family!
Andrea's younger brother, Patrick, lives in Joplin, MO. Above is a picture of the aftermath of the tornado. Patrick was unharmed, though his home received some damage. He was one of the lucky ones. Two streets over from his home was completely destroyed. Patrick was at church when the tornado hit Joplin, and immediately began helping dig people out from the rubble.