Over the years, Steve and I have attended several Storm Spotter meetings in McPherson. Ever since I can remember I’ve had a fascination for storms. I think it began when I was about eight or nine and visiting my sister in Hillsboro, when all of a sudden my brother-in-law rushed my sister and myself out of the house. There was a storm brewing and possibly a tornado. I didn’t know what all that meant, but we were in the car trying to see it. I don’t recall that we ever did set eyes on that tornado, but it was exciting and fostered my fascination with storms (read on and you’ll see that is what NOT to do.) 
 
Years passed and as a teenager I moved to northwestern North Dakota. As a rule, there are not many tornados up there, but one year while I lived there a tornado hit and overturned several trailer houses, one where one of my friends lived with her six siblings. Thankfully none of the children were at home when the tornado struck. I remembering looking at the devastation and wondering how that could happen and how it only hit that small area and the rest of the town was spared. It was then I learned that trailer houses are not the safest places to be during high winds of any sort. That was long before the weather men and women were able to identify potential areas where tornados might develop. But alas, I did not get to see that tornado either. When I moved from North Dakota to Denver it never occurred to me that tornados would ever hit a city of that size. But again to my amazement there were tornados in Colorado, but they were few and far between, so my interested in tornados waned.  When I moved back to Kansas I felt I was uninformed and did not recognize the danger and potential for damage and death due to those unpredictable high winds, so I set out to educate myself in order to be safe and protect my family and property.
 
The potential for damage and/or loss of life from a tornado is high and the chance of a tornado in Kansas is high. Those are two reasons it is good to be educated on what NOT to do when in a tornado warning or tornado watch area.
1.    DO NOT get in your car and go riding. You may not think that would be dangerous, but you are focused mainly in front of you when in a car looking for the storm. A tornado could come from above, either side, or from behind and you would not have a chance to escape.
2.    DO NOT ignore the warnings. There are reasons we have meteorologists watching the radar and reporting the weather (interrupting your TV show). They want to save lives.
 
Now, what you SHOULD KNOW and DO to be prepared for a pending tornado/storm.
 
1.    Identify your safest place before the crisis such as a small room in the basement, or if you have no basement a closet or a bathroom without windows. You can use your unused luggage to store your supplies during tornado season. It is easy to move from one room to another.
2.   Have an emergency kit ready in your safe area. In this kit, you should have a 3-day supply of nonperishable food, a manual can opener, 3-day supply of water per person, portable radio or TV with batteries, a cell phone charger, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit and manual, hand sanitizer, matches in a waterproof container, a whistle, extra clothing and blankets, photocopies of identification and credit cards, cash and coins, prescriptions, eye glasses, and specialized supplies for your family along with a pair of shoes for each family member.
3.    Use blankets, sleeping bags, etc. to cover yourselves during the storm. When tornados hit they carry lots of debris and that can be very dangerous. Keep your eyes and vital organs protected.
4.   Keep your cell phone close, as they can be very helpful. Make sure your phone is charged and ready for use. This can help locate help.
5.    Monitor the storm by portable radio or TV while in your safe area.
 
I finally saw my first tornado in 1991 when one destroyed several homes in the Hutchinson community of Willowbrook. As my cousin and I stood in the garage watching the ever blackening sky, it was so wide and so close I couldn’t even tell it was a tornado. At the time, I had no idea how dangerous that could have been, but I do now. I think, as a rule, women are more willing to take shelter, but men… well behind every man is a woman yelling “get in the basement now!”
 
Take heed and continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors…. from a safe distance.