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Twister tips to keep students safe

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on March 14, 2013 – 5:19 pmNo Comment

Illustration courtesy of Byron Buslig

Spring’s warm weather is known for bringing forth chirping birds, blooming flowers and violent tornadoes.

“More do occur in spring,” said Tommy Jackson, pubic information officer for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. “Tornadoes used to be considered a springtime phenomenon,” he said, “but you’re susceptible to them all months of the year.”

Tornadoes happen when cold and warm air clash, causing violent wind, he said.

“It’s a very frightening thing when they do occur,” he said, “they are unbelievably powerful.”

The worst tornado Jackson experienced happened in 2008, he said. At 5 p.m. Feb. 5, a tornado killed three people in Atkins before its 122-mile trek across the state, causing 13 total fatalities, the National Weather Service’s assessment said.

The Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak, as it became known, included 87 tornadoes in nine states, it said. Half the people interviewed for the report said that they underestimated the storm because it was outside the perceived tornado season.

Students can minimize their risks in a tornado by planning ahead, Jackson said.

“One of the best things students can do is prepare by gathering enough emergency supplies,” Jackson said, including food, water, toiletries and medicine. He recommended students have enough supplies to live for 72 hours, in case first responders cannot reach them.

Keeping important documents in a secure, waterproof area can protect them during a tornado, he added.

“When a tornado does approach, anyone in its path should seek shelter indoors,” Jackson said. Basements and interior, ground-floor rooms away from windows are the safest places, he said, and added that sheltering under heavy furniture or mattresses provides extra protection.

Tornadoes can suck up cars and mobile homes and toss them through the air, Jackson said. It is best to leave them if they are in a tornado’s path. If there is no shelter available, people should lie flat in a ditch or depression, cover their heads, and wait for the storm to pass, he said.

It is a good idea to have a tornado plan ahead of time, Jackson said. Students should know where to go in a tornado. They should also decide on a meeting place, in case they are separated from their friends and family, he said.

“So many of us tend to panic when a storm hits and forget everything,” he said. “The people who plan ahead are the people who are most likely to survive.”


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