November is typically not tornado season, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. We saw with Washington, Illinois, three years ago that tornadoes are possible in November, and it is best to know how to be prepared year-round.
Three years ago today, November 17, 2013, an EF-4 rated tornado with wind speeds between 170 mph to 190 mph hit the town of Washington, Illinois.
Families huddled in their basements holding tight to each other and their pets as the tornado hurtled through. Pressure changes, which forced ears to pop, were just one of many signs that residents experienced as they hid in their basements and crawl spaces as they waited out the tornado. Once the pressure returned to normal and the danger had passed, residents emerged from their homes and were faced with a horrific sight.
Over 1,000 homes had suffered some form of damage, from missing shingles to completely leveled homes. Sorting through the pieces of their homes was only the beginning for many Washington residents. Going through the process of filing a claim and then slowly rebuilding their home was a long road as a harsh winter set in shortly after.
November is not a time that the Midwest typically expects tornadoes, but as we can see, that doesn’t mean they can’t happen. When many of the residents took cover in their basements or crawlspaces, they weren’t prepared to face the destruction of what the tornado left behind.
Tornado season is typically March through June, but as we have seen with the tornado that hit Washington in November, a tornado can hit at any time. This means it is always best to be prepared year-round.
Tornado Watch vs. Warning
Tornado Watch – Tornadoes are possible with the weather conditions in the area. At this time, it is best to review emergency plans and check your supplies in your safe room.
During a tornado watch is a good time to start getting items into your safe room such as closed-toed shoes, jackets, extra clothing, cat carrier, leashes for dogs, medication you need daily, important papers, and anything else you would need should the tornado strike your house.
Tornado Warning – A tornado has been sighted and you need to immediately get under ground to a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room (closet, hallway, or bathroom).
This is not the time to be outside taking pictures or bringing in your animals. When the tornado warning is given, you need to be heading to your safe room immediately.
Having food and water on hand is always good, especially if you have children or pets. For many residents of Washington, they emerged with just the clothes on their backs. Here are some things you should have in your shelter area to be prepared for a tornado:
- A portable weather radio
- Closed-toed shoes
- Important papers (Social Security cards, birth certificates, insurance information, etc.)
- Pet supplies (food, leashes, carriers)
- Bottled water
- Phone and computer plus chargers
- Medications you need daily
Think about what you would need if you lost everything in a tornado. Do you have the numbers to call and make insurance claims? Are your shoes sturdy enough to walk through glass and rubble?
A devastating tornado like the one that hit Washington is a destruction no one wants to endure, but knowing how to be prepared can keep you one step ahead of the tornado and keep your family safe.
If you are ever placed in a devastating situation like the residents of Washington were, you can register you and your family on the American Red Cross Safe and Well site or call 1-866-GET-INFO. This way you can spend your time finding a place to stay, something to eat, calling your insurance company, and evaluating the damage of your home.
Make sure you know and understand your homeowners policy before tragedy strikes; you don’t want to wait until a disaster to find out about your coverage.