Supplies, planning and information can save lives amid deadly, record-breaking tornado season: American Red Cross
With 31 reported fatalities, 2019 has seen 960 tornadoes rip across the country so far this year—much higher than the average of 659 for the same period
Tornado season is showing no signs of letting up, with this year being one of the worst in recent memory and twisters, strong winds, downpours, and hail coming down in full force in parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Alabama, and several other parts of the southeastern U.S.
In a typical year, from January through to December, close to 1,200 tornadoes make their way across the country, with the total number until the month of June averaging at 659. However, CBS News reported that 960 have already been sighted this year as of May 28.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) spoke to the American Red Cross, who have mobilized support and help across seven states, about how those in susceptible areas can avoid common mistakes and best prepare for the disaster if one happens to come their way.
"It is important to know the difference between a watch and a warning," said a Red Cross spokesperson to MEAWW in a statement. "A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means a tornado is already occurring or will occur soon."
They advised that residents should go to their safe place — a basement, a storm cellar, or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows — immediately after the tornado warning, failing which they should find shelter in a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
"If you live in a mobile home, find a safe place in a nearby sturdy building," the spokesperson warned. "No mobile home is safe in a tornado. If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, go there immediately."
They also stressed on the mantra of being prepared as much as possible, advocating three simple actions that, in the scenario of a disaster, would very likely save lives — Getting a kit, making a plan, and always being informed.
"Your emergency kit should contain supplies for at least three days, including a gallon of water per person per day, non-perishable food, a flashlight, and extra batteries, a first aid kit, medications, and copies of important documents," the spokesperson recommended. " Don’t forget to grab items for young children (such as diapers) and any supplies for family members with special medical needs."
Detailing the other actions, they explained residents in affected states should formulate a plan for when one is separated from their family, ideally coordinating it with the schools', work's, and the community's ]plans, and take a First Aid and CPR/AED course for emergency situations.
While physical and property damage is a given, what often goes understated is the mental impact of these disasters that often see livelihoods destroyed. The Red Cross assured MEAWW that mental health workers were present in designated shelters to promote " resiliency and good coping skills."
"These trained professionals will meet with those who need it in shelters to provide short-term psychological care to help reduce stress and provide tools to cope with the disaster," the statement read.
While this time of the year happens to be the heart of tornado season, May alone has seen 500 tornado reports, with the middle of the month seeing 13 consecutive days with at least eight tornadoes reported — a number that broke the previous record of 11 days that was set in June 1980.
It is highly likely, however, that the numbers being thrown around currently are vastly inflated and will reduce once duplicate tornado reports have been culled.
There have been 31 reported fatalities so far this year, which is in line with the long-term average of 60 deaths a year, with close to 75% of the deaths (23) coming from a Category 4 tornado with 170 mph winds that ripped through Macon and Lee Counties in Alabama on March 3.
The season is showing no signs of abating, with the Tornado Alley states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska facing powerful winds and possible flooding over the next few weeks.