Tornadoes are a natural phenomenon formed when a violently rotating column of air descends to the ground from a thunderstorm. Though advance warning is given by the weather service, its exact path is difficult to predict and it meanders through leaving a trail of destruction, injuries and death.
A tornado is formed when three different types of air combine in a certain way. At the ground level there is warm and humid air with strong winds. In the upper atmosphere we would find colder air with strong winds. This temperature and moisture difference between ground level and upper atmosphere creates instability. The third ingredient is a hot dry layer of air which forms between the warm moist air below and the cool dry air above and it acts like a cap. It warms the air below even further and these three systems are the basic ingredients for tornado formation.
The interaction of these three systems develops into a thunder storm and rotating winds develop. As long as the rotary winds are in the system above it does not cause harm, it is when it touches down that the tornado is very destructive.
The National Weather Service Warning System
Five basic components comprise the National Weather Service warning system. They are:
- Tornado Watch – using the latest equipment in weather prediction, the National Weather Service keeps track of tornado formation. Depending on the probability they issue the appropriate warning to the general public.
- Spotters – these are trained people who have been put on the ground to spot a potential tornado. They serve as the National Weather Service’s eyes on the ground. They form a valuable link in the chain.
- Civil Defense/State Police – public warnings for towns/cities at risk are routed through these services for local action.
- Media – emergency services use the media extensively to issue tornado warnings. A direct line between the National Weather Service and the media ensures that warnings reach the public in real-time.
- Users – these comprise the people living in the area where the tornado is likely to strike. Warnings and persuasion are used to target the users to make them take precautions to stay safe.
Safety rules during a tornado
If there are thunder storms in the area keep a close watch on the skies and also listen to warning broadcasts in the media
- Persons in the path of the storm should seek immediate shelter in storm shelters, basements etc.
- When a tornado warning is issued, those in its vicinity should stay indoors and not attempt to go out or drive
- In a home, the safest part is the basement. If there is no basement, then go to the lowest part of the building and stay in the smallest room such as a closet, bathroom or under sturdy furniture.
The destructive power of a tornado is immense. Homeowners should take insurance cover to minimize their losses. Since businesses will also be affected, businesses should also take adequate insurance and in addition to this, should have sound Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans in place.