By Jennifer Thibault
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
It is often said if you don’t like the weather wait a minute and it will change.
That saying couldn’t be truer when considering the local weather. It wasn’t but two Fridays ago Colorado commuters were blanketed by snow as they trekked home only to rise to a sunny weekend perfect for local outdoor activities.
While this sometimes sporadic weather helps ward off any chances of cabin fever it is also the breeding ground for some of Mother Nature’s scariest feats, tornadoes.
Colorado is no stranger to tornadoes, especially among the eastern plains Schriever calls home.
“Since 1990, 51 tornadoes were reported in El Paso County, resulting in 15 injuries and $8.6 million in damages,” according to Kevin Selleny, Schriever Office of Emergency Management.
While tornadoes are more common in May they can happen anytime rotating thunderstorms exist, as was made blatantly clear when tornadoes claimed more than 30 lives throughout Missouri, Illinois and Indiana in the first few days of March.
News channels broadcast the twisters’ havoc on these areas but also told the remarkable stories of people who despite their homes being tossed around walked away relatively unscathed. These stories were made possible by early warning and prepared response.
“The good news is Schriever is prepared. All facilities on the base, with the exception of trailers and temporary structures, are rated to withstand, at a minimum, 90 mph winds,” said Selleny.
The key then is ensuring members are in one of these structures when a tornado looms. To do so, base members need to understand the terms used to describe tornadoes and the environment that produces them.
Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather. Take shelter immediately.
Shelter can vary based on one’s current location. The ideal place at work is a pre-designated shelter, typically on the lowest building level, using arms to protect your head and neck.
At home, shelter is typically a basement, safe room or storm cellar. If these aren’t available, people should go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level.
“You want as many walls between you and the outside,” said Selleny. “People who are in a vehicle or mobile home when a tornado hits should get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a nearby building or storm shelter.”
If these aren’t available, people should lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression, covering head with hands.
Like other emergency preparedness, families need to walk through their response before a tornado arrives.
“Pick a place where you and family members could gather if a tornado is headed your way,” said Tech. Sgt. Sarah Law, 50th Space Wing Safety Office. “Take time to practice this with your children.”
This practice is required in the workplace too.
“We are required to practice this at work and do on a fairly regular basis. Even though it is ‘practice,’ we all need to take it seriously as tornados are a real possibility for our region,” said Law.
According to the NOAA’s National Weather Service, tornadoes typically touchdown for about 10 minutes. By heeding the above advice, members increase their chances of walking away unscathed if a tornado was to touch down near Schriever or their home.
For more information on tornadoes and severe weather, see: http://www.nws.noaa.gov.