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Tornadoes can be one of Mother Nature’s most destructive forces, but advanced warning can help to save lives when a tornado is approaching.
As a strengthening thunderstorm begins to rotate, the National Weather Service (NWS) can issue a tornado warning. This means that a tornado is imminent and that people in the path of the storm need to take cover immediately.
However, when a large, destructive tornado is already on the ground for an extended period of time and approaching a populated area, the NWS can issue a tornado emergency.
“A tornado emergency means that significant, widespread damage with a high likelihood of numerous fatalities is expected to continue with a strong and violent tornado,” the NWS said.
A tornado emergency is a call to action that people need to react to immediately. When one is issued, a confirmed tornado is causing life-threatening conditions and people need to seek shelter if they haven’t already.
Tornado emergencies are rare and are only issued during significant severe weather events.
“This tornado warning is reserved for situations when a reliable source confirms a tornado, or there is clear radar evidence of the existence of a damaging tornado, such as the observation of debris,” the NWS said.
Sometimes a whole year can pass without a single tornado emergency being issued anywhere in the United States.
However, if there is a tornado outbreak, a tornado emergency may be issued multiple times in just a few hours.
The first tornado emergency was issued on May 3, 1999, during a historic tornado outbreak in Oklahoma.
Late that afternoon, a large and extremely dangerous tornado had developed and was tracking toward the Oklahoma City metro area.
At the time, a tornado emergency did not exist, but meteorologists understood the destruction that was about unfold. This is when the idea of a tornado emergency was born.
“Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, had a tornado warning in effect, but felt that it was not enough. They needed to enhance the wording in the warning somehow to catch the attention of people in the path of this monster,” the NWS said.
“There was no guidance on how to write such a product. Forecasters did not follow any protocol. They just did it,” the NWS said.
A mobile Doppler weather radar in the area of the storm measured winds of 301 mph inside this tornado, the highest wind speeds ever recorded on Earth.
When the tornado lifted, it left 36 dead and over 550 injured, but these numbers may have been higher if the tornado emergency was not issued.
A tornado emergency would not be issued again until Sept. 20, 2002, when a long-tracked tornado approached part of Indianapolis. This tornado remained on the ground for 112 miles and produced F3 damage, but no fatalities were reported.
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People that live in tornado-prone areas should have a plan in place and know where to seek shelter when a tornado is approaching.
"We urge people to sit down with their families, talk about what they would do and where they would go during severe weather or other emergency," Lucinda Parker, public information officer at the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said.
People should also prepare a supply kit for their storm shelter so it is at the ready if a tornado strikes. A basic kit includes water, nonperishable food, a first aid kit, a flashlight and batteries.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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The NASCAR Playoffs will continue tonight at the Richmond Raceway amid warm and potentially unsettled weather.
The arrival of cooler, less humid air in the northeastern United States will coincide with the first days of fall this weekend.
On Monday, Sept. 17, a series of tornadoes from Hurricane Florence struck Virginia and caused heavy destruction in the Richmond area, including a tree that was housing 70,000 bees.
While crests will continue to work downstream along the major rivers in the eastern part of the Carolinas into next week, some unprotected areas may stay flooded until the end of September or early October.
No obstante, organizaciones sin fines de lucro crearon la primera Guía para la Protección de la Niñez y la Adolescencia en Situaciones de Emergencia o Desastres.
The newest storm in the western Pacific Ocean will track through the Philippine Sea, likely developing into a typhoon before impacting land later in the week.
The Carolinas continue to deal with Florence's aftermath while flooding inundated other parts of the U.S. this week.
As disaster relief efforts continue in the wake of Hurricane Florence, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has imposed restrictions on drone usage in areas affected by the storm.