You can’t outrun it- but you can be prepared!

I was five years old when my parent’s best friend’s house was destroyed by a tornado.  And when I say best friend’s house, I mean more than one family.  An entire neighborhood.

On April 27, 1984, a 6.5 mile long by 100 yard wide F4 tornado traveled through my town, missing my street, but touching down in the subdivision next door, where many of our closest family friends lived.  The National Weather Service reported:

THE TORNADO LEFT A SIX AND A HALF MILE LONG AND A 100 YARD WIDE PATH OF DESTRUCTION JUST SOUTH… SOUTHEAST…AND EAST OF WALES. THE HARDEST HIT AREA WITHIN THE TORNADO/S PATH WAS THE DOVER BAY SUBDIVISION IN DELAFIELD. ONE WOMAN WAS KILLED AND 14 OTHER PEOPLE WERE INJURED.

IT WAS LATER DETERMINED THROUGH DAMAGE SURVEYS THAT THE WALES TORNADO WAS A VIOLENT F4…THE SECOND HIGHEST LEVEL ON THE FUJITA TORNADO SCALE.

F4 tornadoes have wind speeds of 207-260 miles per hour. tornado-599805_1280

The Wales, WI tornado was not the only tornado on April 27th 1984.  On the same day, the Milwaukee Journal reported that there were 15-20 tornadoes accompanied by severe thunderstorms, high winds, and hail roared through the state.

April 27, 1984 was not a good day for our friends or the entire state of Wisconsin, for that matter.

And that kind of thing is something that sticks with you your entire life.

Wisconsin’s “tornado season” runs from April to September.  The top four tornado months are: June, July, May, and August, respectively.   Historically, according to the National Weather Service, there have been 1537 documented tornadoes in Wisconsin since 1844 causing 511 directly related deaths and at least 3056 directly related injuries.  While 23 tornadoes a year is our average here in Wisconsin, in 2005 there were 62!  Lastly, if you are one for facts the majority of tornadoes have struck during mid-afternoon or early evening (3pm – 7pm); however- they can strike at any time with little or no warning.  The second deadliest tornado in Wisconsin history the Barneveld/Black Earth twister (June 8 1984) occurred at 1 am without warning and killed 9/injured 200 while causing 40 million dollars’ worth of damage (in 1980 $$)!

Tornado Safety is not something that should be taken lightly.  Although I haven’t lived through another 15-20 tornado day (knock on wood), it’s important that families teach their children what to do in case of a tornado.  It’s important to have a plan.

Key Weather Terms

Tornado Watch: Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms with the potential of tornadoes.  Think to yourself “we’re just watching for one right now”.

Tornado Warning: Tornado has been sighted or detected on radar.  If a Tornado Warning has been issued, take shelter immediatelyThink to yourself “Warning!  Warning!  Warning!”

Definition of a Tornado

The dictionary defines a tornado as “a mobile, destructive vortex of violently rotating winds having the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and advancing beneath a large storm system.”  They can vary in size, intensity, and appearance.  Wind speeds from 100 mph to over 300 mph are possible.  The width of a tornado may range from just a few yards to well over a mile and they can travel a path of just a few hundred yards to hundreds of miles.

What do you do?

If you are indoors

If you are outdoors

Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)

Local and State Emergency Official and the National Weather Service have a tool for alerting the public to dangerous conditions- called Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).  These emergency alerts will be activated by cell towers – so if you are driving through an alerted area, you will automatically see the message on your cell phone.  These messages include tornado warnings (not watches).

So, be alert and ready, Wisconsin!  Have a plan and practice it.

And no…. you cannot outrun a tornado.

 

 

 

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