Tornado season requires awareness of danger, safety procedures

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It’s springtime, which means tornado season is here. Living in Tornado Alley means being prepared and knowing what to do if a tornado were to touch down.

Two tornadoes have hit the Manhattan area in the last 50 years: one in 1966 and another one in 2008. The more recent one in June of 2008 was an EF4, which is just one category away from the strongest tornado rating. The tornado caused more than $20 million in damages to the university alone, and
destroyed more than 45 homes in Manhattan. There were no injuries or deaths reported.

Jeremy Goodwin, chief meteorologist at WIBW, said the fact that there were zero injures and deaths led him to believe that Manhattan residents did a good job of paying attention and taking cover.

Residents on and off campus were given warning before the twister hit, which gave them time to follow safety procedures and make sure they were in the safest area possible.

K-State Alerts
One way students and faculty were alerted about the tornado was through the K-State Alerts system. The alert system has been in place for the last five years, along with the Rave system and Alertus beacons. These systems do not just deal with weather safety and alerts, but also with potentially dangerous situations, such as a gunman on campus. The Alertus beacons have a flashing light surrounding a scrolling message with an alert alarm.

Students and faculty can sign up on
k-state.edu/safety/alerts/ to receive emergency alerts through text messages, automated telephone calls, emails and social media, or they can choose to receive just text messages or emails.

Get underground, away from glass
When a tornado watch or warning is issued for those on campus or in a residential hall, the procedure is to go to the lowest floor in the central part of the building and as far away as possible from glass. According to Steve Broccolo, emergency management coordinator for K-State, places to avoid during a watch or warning include buildings with a lot of glass such as the greenhouses, main floors of the engineering complex, and both the north and south end of the K-State Student Union.

Currently, there are no city ordinances requiring off campus apartment complexes to have tornado shelters or safety areas for their residents, according to emergency management coordinator for Riley County Laurie Harrison. Only mobile home complexes are required to have a storm shelter. Residents without a storm shelter or basement are advised to go to the lowest level available in the building and stay away from windows and glass.

Taylor Chaconas, freshman in open option, said she was surprised that apartment buildings did not have designated safety areas for their residents. She said that she did not know about tornado safety until she moved here from Maryland for college.

Be aware
The first step in tornado safety awareness is knowing what to look for with an approaching storm. Goodwin said meteorologists look for instability and wind shear when it comes to approaching tornadoes. Those who are not meteorologists should be aware of sudden changes in temperature, large, dark, low-lying clouds and dark, green skies.

The average number of tornadoes in Kansas, according to Goodwin, is between 60 and 80 per year. The peak of tornado season is May and June, so it is important to know the safety procedures on campus, as well as the dos and don’ts of handling a tornado or severe storm.

Do:
1. Take cover in the basement, or in a center room on the lowest level of the building.
2. Avoid windows or areas with a lot of glass.
3. Crouch as low to the ground as possible and cover your head with your hands.
4. If outside, go and crouch down in a ditch covering head with hands.
5. Have a portable weather radio or AM/FM radio to tune in to local stations for regular weather updates.

Don’t:
1. Try to outrun a tornado in your car.
2. Use an elevator to reach the lowest part of the building.
3. Seek shelter under an overpass or bridge.
4. Light candles if you lose power, as ruptured gas lines are a potential result of a tornado.
5. Open the windows.

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