Thursday, June 13, 2013

Get in, Get Down, Cover Up!

Summary - Remember to shelter in place. Put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible. Get in, Get Down, Cover Up!

 I am not keen on touching fleeing or evacuating because I sense it has become polarized. But I wanted to discuss it and think it through. There are two main perspectives, one is singular and the other plural. By plural I mean that many people choose to flee, or evacuate if you prefer. A singular perspective is just you and your car, minimal traffic, a good route, etc.

So if an evacuation message is given then conceivably a large number of people participate. Most importantly the success rate of this action depends on the number of people & vehicles that enter a road network and the capacity of the roads. Most larger cities have traffic at some point, say after work, or due to constant construction.  If you add a storm and further restrict fleeing options you also congest the leftover roads. You add a sense of urgency and you create an additional dilemma: traffic accidents. At any speed, this causes problems especially for you, your family, police, ambulances, tow trucks, etc ... whoever needs to intervene to help.

You also just made a decision to limit your information while on the move. Listening to a simulcast of a TV station may not be any more effective in knowing where the dangers lie. What if road closures occur and you are forced to take an alternative route into the storm? Can you navigate through traffic, manage the radar app, or tv discussion of where storms are and still be safe?

Perhaps you think time is on your side. Maybe you have hours (realistically you need many hours). Who are you going to? Ideally you want a plan. Someone to expect you so you arent stranded on the road with a flat tire, or out of gas, or a busted transmission, or some other random happenstance. Someone who has a safer place than you.

Its not wise to flee in most circumstances from a Tornado Warning. By then its too late. It may be too late to flee in the Tornado Watch. Until the atmosphere shows you her hand, chances are the risk area is large enough that you need to drive for 3+ hours to get out of the way. That requires a whole lot of planning. You should never just pick up and go. You need to have somewhere to go and someone to receive you. You may need to stay a while.

Remember to shelter in place. Put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible. This approach works. More than 99% of people who have been struck by the strongest tornadoes survive.

If fleeing is seen as a good option then you probably need a storm shelter. The sense of security is comforting on many levels. Get in, Get down, and Cover Up.

It sure is better than being in a car under threatening weather. Even a small unseen tornado can lift your car. Strong winds can topple tractor trailers at speeds below severe levels of 58 mph. And trees can go down, taking wires with them, at winds that may be below severe winds also. If memory serves, a lot of people were killed during Sandy by trying to move/clear debris off cars and/or roads. And lets not even mention that other hazards besides tornadoes can overwhelm your escape plans, like Flash Floods (sometimes far from the sight of the rainfall), previous damage, hail, or other storms forming or producing severe weather.

For me that is just too much to consider. Create a survival plan. Create a survival kit. Practice your survival plan. This worked in Dallas when some resourceful and weather aware parents saved there own lives and their childrens with pot and pans helmets and a plan.

Thanks for the slogan, Ariel Cohen!