Tornado season is just around the corner. That means people across the country should be gearing up to protect themselves and their property from the potential impact of these powerful storms.
In order to protect yourself as effectively as possible, it’s important to understand exactly what these weather events are, how they’re formed, and the potential damage that can occur as a result. People in every part of the country are potentially vulnerable to these storms. So if you’re not especially familiar with tornadoes and how to effectively protect yourself and your property, here’s a quick guide.
What Is a Tornado?
A tornado is a type of weather event that results in a rotating column of wind. They are technically invisible, but it’s often possible to see them because the wind picks up water droplets and debris that are visible.
These storms can vary dramatically in size and severity. Tornadoes that are classified as EF0 or EF1 can contain wind speeds as low as 65 miles per hour. They can still lead to some damage, but they’re usually not especially dramatic or long lasting. However, on the other end of the spectrum there are tornadoes classified as EF4 and EF5. These can have wind speeds of 200 miles per hour or more and create serious issues for communities.
What Causes a Tornado to Occur?
Though the exact cause of tornadoes isn’t fully understood, we do know that they’re most common in warm and humid conditions. They also usually require some level of instability in the atmosphere, or changing wind directions that allow that rotating cylinder to form.
Though not a steadfast rule, thunderstorms often accompany tornadoes. These storms often include updrafts and downdrafts of wind, which cause both warm and cold fronts to mix in the lower atmosphere. This can create the instability necessary for a tornado to form. This is also why tornadoes tend to be especially prevalent during the spring and early summer, though they can sometimes occur throughout the rest of the year as well.
What Are the Most Likely Locations in America for Tornadoes?
Though tornadoes can occur in basically any location where those ideal conditions are present, there are a few spots across the country where they tend to be especially troublesome. Traditionally, this location has been known as Tornado Alley. Tornado Alley isn’t an officially-defined region, but it is generally thought to include many of the south central Great Plains states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and parts of Texas. This is where tornadoes have been most prevalent throughout the years, and where the most damaging storms have been most likely to occur.
However, recent research has suggested that Tornado Alley may be shifting slightly to the east. Specifically, parts of the Southeast and Midwest have seen increased tornado activity in recent years. This doesn’t mean that those in the Great Plains region should lower their guard. There are still likely to be plenty of tornadoes in those states. But the activity may be shifting or spreading out a bit. Additionally, tornadoes have been documented in every single U.S. state. So property owners around the country really should consider protective measures.
What Kind of Damage Can Tornadoes Cause?
The most serious concern when it comes to tornado damage is personal injury or even death. Tornado wind speeds can reach up to 300 miles per hour and carry heavy or sharp debris, which can be harmful or lethal to anyone who comes into contact with it. This type of debris can travel at a high enough speed to break into homes or vehicles as well. So there’s the potential for injury even for those who stay indoors.
In addition, tornadoes can cause structural issues for buildings and create serious property damage. Winds are often strong enough to pick up large items, even cars or other vehicles. They can even uproot trees, break apart fences, and remove siding from homes and buildings.
Even when it comes to property damage, flying debris remains one of the main concerns. The wind can pick up heavy or sharp items and fling them at a high rate of speed into windows or building walls. In addition to the actual damage from impact, this can leave the building vulnerable to the elements or other potential threats.
What a Safe Room Needs for Tornado Protection
Tornado safe rooms can help protect property and people from wind and impact related damage or injury. So exactly what is a safe room?
There are a few different types of safe room systems, including those designed for private homes and those that are meant to provide safety to the public in community buildings. But whether it’s a residential or community storm shelter, it should be built to conform with FEMA P-361 2015 (Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms) and all of its components including walls, doors, windows and roof systems should be tested in accordance with the ICC500-14 (Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters). This will ensure the safe room provides near-absolute protection from the deadly winds and wind-borne debris associated with extreme-wind events including an EF5 tornado.
Tornado Proofing Safe Room Solutions
If you’re in the process of designing a tornado safe room Insulgard can help. We offer a wide array of products designed to withstand high winds and impact from flying debris. Our StormDefend aluminum window systems and door systems can be incorporated in your shelter to provide an aesthetically pleasing space year round and also, when needed, provide shelter from extreme wind-events. Our knowledgeable representatives are available to speak with you to help you find the products that will be most beneficial for your building and your specific needs. Our products are tested and certified by UL (Underwriters Laboratory) to the most rigorous safe room standards in the country, so you can feel confident in their ability to keep you safe throughout tornado season and beyond.