Tips & Resources

Winter Travel Tips

BE PREPARED: LEARN ABOUT TORNADOES A guide for children and their parents on nature's most violent storms

Here's why you need to prepare

Every year tornadoes kill many people. Hundreds are hurt. Thousands of homes are destroyed. You can't stop a tornado. You can't keep it from hitting a house or town. Nobody can. But people can get out of its way. All they need is time. They need a warning.

What is a tornado?

Tornadoes are twisting funnel-shaped clouds reaching toward the earth. You can see most tornadoes before they reach you. Dark clouds boil in the sky. A dark funnel may reach all the way to the earth. The wind blows hard, trees bend, dirt and leaves are picked up. Cars are pushed sideways or turned over. A great roar like hundreds of jet planes or a freight train gets louder and louder. As the tornado gets closer, the roar is so loud it hurts your ears. The wind whistles and screams. The winds in a tornado go around in a wide funnel, big at the top and small at the bottom. They can blow at more than 200 miles an hour. At the same time the whole tornado moves across the land. Most of them come from the southwest and go toward the northeast.

When do tornadoes come?

Most tornadoes occur in springtime in the late afternoon on a hot day. But they can happen anytime. During a tornado, there are many safe places to go. Plan ahead with your family so you'll know what to do.

How do you know if a tornado is coming?

People at the National Weather Service warn everyone. They use radio, TV and sirens to tell you to take cover. The sirens are tested in Sioux Falls on the first Friday of every month at 11 a.m. and in rural areas on the first Saturday each month at 11 a.m. The sirens either sound like a loud wail or a steady blast. When the wind is blowing, skies get dark and sirens are blowing, turn on your radio or TV. You'll find out what is happening.

Where do you go to be safe when you hear the siren?

? Suppose you're in school, when there's a tornado. Your teacher knows what to do. Go to an inside hall on the lowest floor. Crouch on the floor facing the wall. Bend over with your hands on the back of your head. Keep away from glass doors, windows and big rooms like the gym, cafeteria and auditorium. Your school will hold tornado drills so everyone knows what to do. Pay attention to your teacher's instructions when you practice.

? If you are at home when it's time to find shelter, the safest place to go is the basement. Get under a heavy workbench or under the stairs. Use your arms and hands to protect your head from falling or flying objects. If you don't have a basement, go to a closet or bathroom near the middle of the house. Get under a heavy board or a mattress, a heavy blanket or heavy towels. That will protect you from flying pieces of glass or wood. Stay way from the windows and doors. Don't use the telephone unless there's an emergency. If there is lightning, stay away from anything that uses electricity like TVs, toasters, fans, etc. You could get a shock.

? If you're outside, in a car or in a mobile home, go to the basement of a nearby building. If you can't get into a building - if you are caught outside - lie flat in a ditch or crouch next to a building and cover your head. If you see water, move quickly to another spot.

What's the difference between a tornado watch and a warning?

TV stations in the area display a tornado symbol on the screen when there is a watch or a warning. Learn the different symbols that each station uses.

? Tornado watch: Weather conditions are right for tornadoes to develop. A watch does not necessarily mean a tornado will develop.

? Tornado warning: A tornado has been sighted and is dangerous. This is the time to go to a safe place and listen to a battery-operated radio for instructions.
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Advice to Parents: Prepare Now!


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