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Some tornado safety advice easier given than taken

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As we all know from watching our TV weather reports, tornadoes are not only among the most vicious and dangerous forces in nature — they’re also highly unpredictable.

Apparently the only thing we can say about them with any authority is they all “sound like a freight train” whenever they hit.

If a tornado appears headed in our direction, our friendly TV meteorologists always say our best bet is to seek shelter immediately.

I’ll buy that, as it sounds like good advice.

Furthermore, I’ve heard more than one source say the safest place during a tornado is a basement or underground storm shelter.

Again, sounds reasonable to me, except for the fact we have very few underground storm shelters or basements in this part of the world.

Additional advice at this point usually includes “If you are not able to get to a shelter or basement, you need to find other shelter that is available.”

I’m still with you, barely, although time and options are running out.

We are now warned to “go the lowest level of your home, preferably a small interior room such as a bathroom, closet or inner hallway and get under a sturdy piece of furniture, heavy table or desk and hold on to it.”

What if that specific combination does not always exist? Then what do we do?

Another bit of universal advice we have all heard is to stay as far from windows as possible. How?

At my house we have windows in every room and I would imagine that’s the case with most everyone.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single Realtor’s sales pitch to a potential home-buyer that includes; “This room has no windows, so it would be great in case a tornado hits.”

Anyway, by now we’re starting to panic as the tornado is bearing down and making a beeline to our homes.

Now, about mobile homes — we all must realize by now it’s a fact of nature that once tornadoes get up and running, they’re on the lookout for mobile homes/house trailers, particularly those located close to each other.

Since mobile homes are apparently more vulnerable to tornadoes than permanently built structures, weather experts tell us if we are caught in a mobile home when a tornado is approaching, the best advice is to “evacuate immediately and take shelter in a building with a strong foundation.”

Again, makes perfect sense to me, but how?

Here’s the scenario: You and your family are huddled around together in the mobile home, obviously terrified, with the tornado about a mile away and, based on the freight train sound, headed in your direction.

Any safe structures within 10 miles are probably already occupied with people just as scared as you are and probably not interested in opening their front door to let you or any other visitors come in and chat awhile.

I cannot imagine members of the family running around wildly in the neighborhood screaming “Please let us bunk down in your house and wait for the hurricane to pass. We live in a mobile home just down the road and are looking for a building with a stronger foundation. If you don’t let us in, we’re doomed.”

Here is an exact quote I got from an article about what to do in case of a tornado:

“If you are in a vehicle, do not try to outrun a tornado. Tornadoes can change direction quickly and can instantly lift up a car, truck or any other vehicle and toss it through the air. Get out of the vehicle immediately and take shelter in a nearby building. If a building is not available, lie in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance away from the vehicle.”

I hope I never have to experience a tornado up close and personal, but if I do, I can assure you of one thing.

My obituary will not read; ‘Was killed when a tornado picked him up in a ditch where he was laying” pr ‘While sitting in his car in the front yard waiting for the tornado to pass, he was lifted up and thrown more than a mile away.”

Regardless of the experts’ advice, if I’m ever in my car and see a tornado coming my way, I’m heading the other way as fast as I can. I might not make it, but that’s my plan and I’m stickin’ to it.

As for the laying in a ditch option, you can forget that, too. I’d love to hear from someone who has actually escaped a tornado in this manner.

Keith Barnes is a reporter for the Johnstonian News. Email him at