Hiding in a Walk-In Refrigerator? Lessons from Deadly Mississippi Tornadoes
After tracking the weather for the better part of 50 years it takes a lot to shock me. But I was horrified by the tornadoes that smashed across Mississippi last Friday night, and now survivors are telling remarkable stories. 8 diners at Chuck's Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi hid in a walk-in refrigerator as the EF-4 tornado, with estimated winds of 170-180 mph, shrieked overhead. That saved their lives. In a violent tornado, if you can't get underground in a basement or inside something that won't become airborne, you may not survive the storm.
It's hard to ponder tornadoes with over 30" of snow on the ground, but spring is coming, and severe weather season will be here soon. Although tornadoes are rare, they are not impossible in the Northland, and I wanted to share a few suggestions in light of last week's killer storms.
1) Don't depend on emergency outdoor sirens.
Residents and storm chasers are saying the sirens weren't sounding before a mile-wide tornado ripped into Rolling Fork. Minnesota and Wisconsin have a good, updated siren system, but sometimes there are malfunctions. The sirens were NEVER meant to be heard indoors, only for outdoor use. Don't depend on being able to hear sirens. You need other options: radio, TV, the Internet, apps on smartphones and NOAA Weather Radio, the cheapest form of life insurance out there! For $30 you can buy a radio that only sets off an alarm for your county, even if you're sound asleep at 3am.
2) "Tornado Emergencies" are especially dangerous.
We are all accustomed to hearing Tornado Warnings issued by the local Duluth National Weather Service, and they do a fantastic job. But a "Tornado Emergency" means a confirmed tornado is on the ground moving into a heavily populated area. You may have seconds to take action!
3) No basement? Have a Plan B.
Below grade is the best place to ride out a tornado, lowering the risk of being hit by flying debris. If you don't have a basement the safest place is the middle of your home or apartment, in a small room, like a closet or bathroom, away from outer walls and windows. People have survived violent tornadoes by hiding in bathtubs!
Cool winds blowing off Lake Superior lower the risk of tornadic storms in the Twin Ports and North Shore, but a particularly violent thunderstorm won't be deterred. It's good to have a plan and practice it with your family. If you got word of a tornado bearing down on your neighborhood where would you go - what would you do?
Being able to answer that question quickly and effectively may pay off when skies turn dark and sinister during late spring and summer.
It's good to be prepared for anything, right?