The Woodward News

Local News

April 20, 2013

Program focuses on tornado safety

Woodward, Okla. — By Rowynn Ricks

Assistant Editor

Woodward and area residents learned a number of severe weather and tornado safety tips during a Weather Awareness and Preparedness Seminar held at the conference center Thursday night.

The seminar was hosted by the Woodward Office of Emergency Management (WOEM), with WOEM Director Matt Lehenbauer leading the safety discussion.

Lehenbauer's presentation also included some basic storm spotting tips to help the public be able to identify potentially tornadic storms, such as how to identify a rotating wall cloud.

However much of the information he provided was centered around how to stay safe during a storm.

The following are some of the big safety issues he discussed:

• The No. 1 tornado danger is being in your vehicle.  -  "If you leave your house and get in your vehicle (during a tornado), your risk of death jumps 10 times," Lehenbauer said.  

He shared one of his own personal experiences to illustrate his point.  He said when he was chasing one tornado near Gainesville, Texas several years ago, he saw a secondary funnel drop down right onto a semi truck and trailer on the highway.  He said that tornado "flipped the whole truck over," ejecting the semi driver and "killed him instantly."  

"So I'm pretty adamant about not getting into your vehicle when there's a tornado warning," Lehenbauer said.  "The only time you should leave your house is if you're in a single wide trailer or mobile home."

The reason for leaving these types of structures is because just like with vehicles, tornadic winds can easily flip and roll trailers, he said.

"With a single wide, the winds both go over it and then get around the skirting to go under it, and like when wind goes over and under an airplane wing, that creates lift," he said.

However, even if you have to leave a trailer, Lehenbauer said it is best to find a shelter that you can reach quickly on foot rather than by car.  "Ideally your shelter should be accessible within 2 minutes walking distance," he said.

And if you happen to already be on the road when there's a tornado warning and you can't take shelter in any nearby structures, then try to drive away from the tornado.

In Oklahoma, he said most tornados and storms travel in an easterly or northeasterly direction, so usually a good option will be to drive south, as long as that doesn't put you in the path of another storm.

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