What do you do if you’re caught in a Tornado or near a Tornado??
Against many people’s understandings – Tornadoes do in fact occur in Australia. They are tight columns of air which are rapidly rotating under usually a Supercell thunderstorm or mesocyclone (rotating thunderstorm). Tornadoes have the potential to produce immense localised damage and destruction, with some towns in Australia being completely wiped out. In fact… the first Tornado ever photographed was on September 27th 1911 (ironically the same day as today), it touched down near Marong, VIC and went on to wipe out Lockwood, VIC killing people in injuring many more. 3 people died in Kin Kin, QLD as an F3 tornado touched down while other notable tornadoes have occurred in Brisbane (1973), Bacchus Marsh (2011). More than a couple of dozen tornadoes on average touch down in Australia per year. Tornadoes can also range in size and time on the ground, they can be as wide as 4km (the widest in history) or as small as a street, they can be on the ground for a matter of seconds or for more than hour – every tornado is different!
Tornado damage ratings via NOAA
So what do you do if you’re caught in one or near one? The above mentions people tragically losing their lives and we see it all the time in the States. So how do we remain safe?
Figure out where the safest place for you to be is – The safest place for you to be is either underground in a basement, or in the most interior room of the house / bathroom. If you’re in a bathroom, place a mattress or some kind of protection over you to shield yourself from debris
Stay away from windows! Glass from windows can become shrapnel in tornadoes. Even if a tornado doesn’t hit – storm force winds or rapid pressure changes in a tornadic storm can blow out your windows
If you’re on the road – pull over and lie in a ditch with your face down! Never EVER hide under an overpass.
Keep your pets on a leash or in a carrier – please don’t leave them behind! They cant protect themselves like you can, it takes all of 5 seconds to round up your dog, cat, bird etc and take them where ever you’re going
Wear shoes! Debris from tornadoes can be scattered for kilometres upon kilometres from here the tornado actually hits. Its vital you wear shoes to avoid debris-sustained injuries with nails and glass being some of the common things to stand on
Never try and drive away from a tornado. If you’re in your house stay in your house. If you’re in a car already, get in a ditch.
Keep up to date with the latest information – if a tornado is on the ground, there will likely be numerous warnings being broadcast by radio, severe emergency personnel and through social media. All of this is accessible by radio or phone and can done so from a safe place (in your basement, bathroom etc).
Don’t be naive, there have been hundreds of tornadoes which have reported to have caused damage throughout Australia, and there will be hundreds more. Just because they don’t happen as often as the States doesn’t mean they don’t happen at all.
Tornado in Eastern Colorado captured by HSC Admin Thomas in June 2015