Sheltering options are key to tornado safety, says NWS meteorologist

The National Weather Service has determined that the strongest of the tornadoes that killed 23 people in Alabama on Sunday was an EF-4.

“It comes down to population density, mobile homes, more people living in mobile homes, sheltering options,” said National Weather Service Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the Topeka office, Chad Omitt. “I think that’s a real important one, that we sometimes take for granted in Kansas. There are more people that have basements around here than we have down in Alabama. It’s not perfect around here. Not everybody’s got a basement, but, I think, in general, sheltering options are a little better up here than they may be down in parts of Alabama. I think that played a role and has through the years in terms of mortality.”

Four tornadoes were confirmed in east-central Alabama. The last time this many people died as a result of a tornado was in 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. The advice for when weather hits here hasn’t changed.

“Get as low as you can and put as many walls between you and the outside as possible,” said Omitt. “Get underneath something sturdy. Cover up with something heavy. If you do that, you go a long way towards keeping yourself and your family alive, even through the most violent tornadoes.”

Virtually every year in Kansas there are a handful of days with a significant storm threat. Sometimes that’s from hail and wind and sometimes it’s from tornadoes. The plans you make on those days will depend on what you need to accomplish aside from the weather.

“Have a plan that looks at where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do in the event that a warning is issued no matter where you’re at,” said Omitt. “Have multiple ways to receive that information, so that when that warning comes out, you can go and execute that plan.”

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Kansas.