This past weekend many of us saw the news. The states of Alabama, and Tennessee were ravaged by strong storms and tornadoes that left severe damage and many families displaced from their homes. We here in New England tend to, in my opinion, watch these events on the news as if they can’t happen to us. Well they can, they have, and they will again. With such strong storms already forming in the Midwest this should nothing if not completely alert us to the potential danger oh the coming storm season.
Last year we saw a tornado strike Springfield Massachusetts, and the severe damage it caused to the town. It looked like a war zone, and the scary part is that it wasn’t even a strong twister. More so in the north our homes are older, and buildings not meant to hold against such strong winds. Because of this we all should be twice as vigilant and have the knowledge to help us before, during, and after the storm.
Tornadoes in general have warning signs before they come. They do not come out of happy white puffy clouds with blue sky as a backdrop. They just don’t. One major sign is that in many cases the sky will turn a blackened green color, and the clouds themselves appear to be moving quickly (a sign of strong winds). Watch the clouds; if they appear to be turning in a rotation towards the bottom of the cloud, or appear to be getting closer to the ground this is another indication. Looking for whirling debris or dust under a cloud system. Another sign which bears mentioning is a loud roar that it like thunder but does not fade in a few seconds. However despite all of this your safest bet is to listen to the weather station. If in the morning the news says strong storms are headed for your area just pay attention to it. Many new stations have optional email and cell phone alert systems which will send you messages of any major warnings or advisories. Generally speaking they know when things will get dangerous; they are the professionals and should be taken seriously. Whenever a tornado warning has been issued seek shelter immediately.
Right, so lets paint this picture. It’s a wonderful spring day, it’s about two in the afternoon and the weatherman has been warning all day that this afternoon a string of strong thunderstorms heading off a front will be moving through the area by about three. Sure enough those blue skies turn dark and the sound of thunder begins to rumble in the distance. Now all of this is pretty normal; storms happen and you know they will pass quickly. You turn on the weather channel again to find that a tornado watch has been put in place because the storm system shows the potential of a possible rotation if the situation is right. Now that’s a little unusual but the National Weather Service does issue these a few times a year in the past years, but usually it just means you’re in for some very nasty storms. All of a sudden the weatherman’s forehead furrows as he looks around. He motions to the board to show the circling animation roughly six miles from your home. “Folks, we have found a possible rotation in this area. We are waiting for confirmation from the National Weather Service but we strongly urge everyone in the Windsor area to seek immediate shelter.” Now that is alarming. You get off the couch and grab your laptop, your dog, and your phone and start to head to the basement of your home. Thinking ahead for a moment you grab a pillow from the couch and head down the basement.
Once secure in the basement in an area with no windows and little debris you flip open your laptop to find in big red letters “Tornado warning issued for Hartford county.” After a moment of panic and potential swearing you settle down and listen to the weatherman. “Folks we have reports of a funnel cloud and a possible touch down.” You look at the location: four miles from your home, and the projected area of damage is straight over your home. The lights begin to flicker and you can hear the wind howling outside and wonder about in what neighbor’s yard your lawn furniture will wind up. Almost as soon as that thought crossed you mind the lights go out and your dog barks and whines as you grab her around the neck and put the pillow over your head. The wind gets worse, you can her glass breaking and the sounds of creaking wood. Trees crash outside and from the sudden shaking of your home imagine one must have fallen on your little house. Your heart races and then almost as quick as it came it’s over. You remain downstairs for a solid ten minutes, waiting to see if those awful sounds will return, but they don’t. They only sound to break the unearthly quiet is the sound of sirens. You finally get up and go back upstairs to find all the glass from the windows blown in with debris scattered about amongst the broken glass. You pick up your dog and carefully get outside, and then you see the damage. That large oak tree from your backyard has crashed into the second floor of your home, broken lawn furniture is everywhere as will as the sound of families calling for one another. Your beautiful neighborhood which looked perfect just an hour before now resembles something Dorothy would recognize.
Tornadoes are some of the most violent, destructive forms of nature one could ever experience. They are fast, too fast, and don’t care whether you’re at home, in a car, at work— no they are not sentient but in a way that makes them worse. They can uproot your life in a matter of seconds. We saw many families in a state of shock in the weeks following the Springfield tornado of 2011, for that matter we were in shock. As we looked on and tried to help some of these families get their homes back we had to deal with the fact that priceless family albums, and homes which had been in some families for decades were destroyed by nature. No one believed this would happen. How could they? We live in New England as those storms are rare here; rare, but not unheard of. Our old wood and brick buildings, our historical homes and well-manicured lawns vanish.
When a tornado strikes there is nothing one can do to save your home, just worry about saving yourself. Unlike a hurricane you don’t have two days to gather water and board up the windows. The National Weather Service highly recommends a preparedness kit which supplies enough water, food, and first aid to last two days should a disaster happen. Having a little cash (since ATMs require electricity), a small amount of gasoline, and a safe pace for personal documents like birth certificates is also ideal. Make sure to read your insurance guidelines to find out if tornado damage is covered under your policy. We saw many families be denied coverage under the “act of god” category, however on the same coin we saw many insurance companies step up and cover the damages. We prepared, know your insurance, and above all stay safe. Don’t be the person who stands outside in 80 mph winds with a camera trying to film a storm which could very literally shove a fence post through your chest. Get to a basement, an interior closet, or a bathtub and wait it out.
Tornadoes are no laughing matter, and to be honest they scare us too, but as always we are here to help get your lives back in order should the worst happen.
For more information on Tornado safety please visit the NOAA site below: