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Severe Weather Safety Information

Tornado Safety
Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, they are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800-1000 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.   Here in the Arklatex we have two tornado seasons.  The main tornado season begins in March and ends at the beginning of June.  A 'mini' tornado season also occurs during late in the fall/early winter from November to early January.

A Tornado Watch is issued by the Storm Prediction Center when conditions are favorable for tornadoes in and close to the watch area.  A watch typically will last for six to eight hours.  Remember, a watch means a tornado COULD happen.

A Tornado Warning is issued by our local National Weather Service office in Shreveport.  They typically last for less than an hour.  A tornado warning means that a tornado IS likely happening and you need to take immediate action.

During a tornado warning, follow these safety tips
In homes or small buildings, go to an interior room on the lowest floor (preferably a bathroom or central closet). Wrap yourself in coats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris. It's rare for our part of the country, but if you have a basement, that is the safest place to go in your home. If you live in an apartment that is not on the ground floor, it might be a good idea to meet your neighbors below.  Remember, it's safest on the lowest floor of a structure.

In schools, hospitals, factories, and shopping centers....
go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed areas or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. 

In high rise buildings,
go to interior rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or areas with a lot of glass.

Abandon vehicles and even mobile homes. These are where most deaths occur. If you are in either of these, leave them and go to a substantial structure.   If there is no suitable shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch and use your hands to cover your head.  An idea for mobile home residents is to seek shelter at a nearby relative for friend's home that is a more solid structure.  Keep in mind that you SHOULD NOT travel to this location once a Tornado Warning is issued for your area.   Pay a visit well before the storms move in.

Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio.  A weather radio is the 'smoke alarm' of weather.  Since tornadoes can strike at anytime, chances are that a weather radio is the only way that you can be alerted to tornadic weather if you are asleep. The National Weather Service continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts that can be received by NOAA Weather Radios sold in many stores.  The National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.  Many of today's radios can be programmed to alarm you only for your particular county or parish.

Tornado Myths:

MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980's, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain.

MYTH: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.

FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.

MYTH: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

FACT: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place.

Arklatex Tornado Facts from the National Weather Service :

Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas!

33 tornadoes have occurred in the Shreveport/Bossier City area (within a 15 mile radius) since 1916...9 of which were "killer" tornadoes.

Peak winds are estimated, however, but based on damage, 17 of these tornadoes produced peak winds less than 112 mph (F0, F1), while another 10 produced winds of 112 - 157 mph (F2), 3 produced winds of 158 - 206 mph (F3), and 3 produced winds in excess of 206 mph (F4).

Five significant tornadoes occurring within or very near the Shreveport/Bossier City areas were as follows:

April 23, 2000 - Greenwood to Keithville to Southern Trace (South Shreveport) to Elm Grove tornado (F3).

April 23, 2000 - Cross Lake to Downtown Shreveport to Bossier City tornado (F1).

April 3, 1999 - North Shreveport, Benton, Black Cypress Bayou tornado (F4).

January 23, 1996 - South and Southeast Shreveport tornado (F2).

December 3, 1978 - Bossier City tornado (F4).

The Easter Sunday Tornado Outbreak of April 23, 2000 produced 28 tornadoes across the four state region, the largest documented tornado outbreak in one day for this area. Although there were a large number of tornadoes that day, there was no loss of life. Four tornado touchdowns were noted across Caddo and Bossier Parishes with this outbreak. Two of these tornadoes impacted portions of Shreveport, causing moderate to severe damage in the northern and southern sections of town. The tornado that struck North Shreveport developed over Cross Lake (as a waterspout) and moved onto land (as a tornado), eastward into Downtown Shreveport, causing F1 damage. A second tornado (F2) developed near Greenwood and tracked eastward into South Shreveport (near Stagecoach Rd.), destroying several homes and causing extensive damage across South Shreveport, before crossing the Red River into Southern Bossier Parish. This tornado intensified as it cross the river (F3), causing severe damage just south of Elm Grove. In addition, golfball to softball sized hail had been reported over much of Shreveport and Bossier City as these storms rolled through.

The north Shreveport, Benton, Black Cypress Bayou of April 3, 1999, produced winds in the F4 category in Bossier Parish, with estimated max. winds of about 230 mph. This tornado killed 7 people and injured 93 as it tracked through the Hay Meadow mobile home park and the Black Cypress Bayou areas in Bossier Parish. It destroyed over 250 homes. At Hay Meadow, 66 of the 100 mobile homes were completely destroyed.

The November 15, 1987 tornado that struck from NE of Center, TX to South Shreveport, likely produced a wind gust of 222 mph, 18 miles SSW of Shreveport, near Crossroads in Desoto Parish. At that point, it lifted a 9710 lb. Ford tractor front end loader and dropped it some 1890 ft. downwind. Based on other effects, the storm winds decreased to 150 mph along the Highway 171 west side of Western Electric when it demolished 2 houses and 1 store...the wind assessment based on steel beams. The storm then moved across 171 and turned left, destroying an entire mobile home park (40 homes). The wind gusts had probably decreased to 85-100 mph when it reached the Southern Hills subdivision in South Shreveport.

The Bossier City tornado of December 3, 1978, produced an effective wind gust of about 218 mph in two areas.

Although not related to that of winds of a tornado, a 144 mph wind gust was recorded at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City on April 22, 1997, as a result of a bow echo squall line moving eastward along the I-20 corridor of Northeast Texas and Northern Louisiana.

Thunderstorm Safety
  When a thunderstorm threatens, protect yourself by taking cover within your home, a large building, or a hard topped automobile. Do not use the phone except in the case of an emergency. If you are caught outside, do not stand under tall trees or telephone poles because lightning has a tendency to strike these tall objects; instead, seek the lowest area to take cover. If you are out at a lake, get off and away from the water until the storm passes. Just because the rain in a storm has ended does not mean that you the threat of lightning has ended.  Remember....lightning can strike several miles away from the heart of a thunderstorm, so you should take precautions even when the storm is not above you.

A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces winds of at least 58 mph and/or hail with a diameter of at least 3/4 inches.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch means that severe storms MIGHT happen.

A Severe Thunderstorm Warning means that a thunderstorm producing 58 mph winds and/or 3/4" diameter or larger hail IS happening.

Flash Flood Safety
   In the case of a flash flood, stay out and away from deep water. Areas of high water are often deeper than they seem to be and often moving more swiftly than they first appear to be. Motorists must avoid flooded roadways...even if a previous motorist made it through. Use an alternate route to avoid the flooding...this is the only way to be safe.  You may not realize it, but as little as two feet of rushing water can float an automobile and push it off the roadway.

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