Tornado Damage to Your Home

On March 3rd, 2019, a deadly tornado tore through Lee County, Alabama, killing 23 people and leaving a path of destruction through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. From May 16th to May 23rd of this year, more than 100 tornadoes were recorded. From those tornadoes alone, it was estimated the economic impact would be over $1 billion dollars. On average, the United States estimates there around 1200 tornadoes occurring annually.

When a tornado strikes, the damage can be anything from minor to catastrophic. No one expects their home to get hit by a tornado, but if it happens, does your family have a plan on how to recoup from the damages?

How Tornadoes Form

Tornadoes form from a supercell. Supercells are a type of thunderstorm, but they differ from a traditional thunderstorm. A supercell is defined as a thunderstorm with a deep rotating updraft. This updraft is referred to as a mesocyclone. Within this supercell is a spinning column of air called a vortex. This vortex can grow bigger and tilt. When that happens, it pulls warm air in and pushes cold air out. The supercell then gathers water vapor. When the cold downward air fights the upper spiral, the vortex begins to tighten and spin faster. As the spinning increases, the weight of the cold air can pull the vortex down to the ground. This is when most people see a funnel cloud, but not necessarily.

A tornadoes measurement is not indicative of how large or small the funnel is. It is based on wind speeds. What that means is a smaller tornado might have greater wind speeds than a large one. Also, some funnels don’t reach the ground. That doesn’t mean the tornado doesn’t reach the ground. There are some tornadoes without funnels, but they still have high winds and damaging circulation.

tornado damage

Tornado Classifications

To measure how strong or dangerous a tornado is, scientists and meteorologists use the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The original Fujita Scale was named after Dr. Ted Fujita, but was modified in 2007. The scale we use now is called the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF). These scales range from an EF-0 to an EF-5. 

  • EF-0: Windspeeds of 65 to 85 mph. With this type of tornado, there is usually some damage with roof surfaces, broken branches, and trees. 
  • EF-1: Windspeeds of 86 to 110 miles per hour. Mobile homes can be overturned. Broken windows, exterior furniture, and gates may be destroyed.  
  • EF-2: Windspeeds of 111 to 135 miles per hour. This scale of tornado can cause extensive damage. Anything from destroying mobile homes, or throwing wood and objects around like missiles. Vehicles can suffer detrimental damage. 
  • EF-3: Windspeeds of 136 to 165 miles per hour. An EF-3 can cause severe damage. Homes can be destroyed. Trains and trucks can be overturned. 
  • EF-4: Windspeeds of 166 to 200 miles per hour. Damage can be devastating. Houses can be completely leveled, large buildings destroyed, and objects hurdled through the air. 
  • EF -5: Windspeeds of over 200 miles per hour. An EF-5 can be catastrophic. Automobiles can fly through the air and become missiles. Houses can be completely wiped from their foundation. Trees and buildings may be leveled.

Planning for Tornadoes

Having a plan of what to do during a tornado could greatly increase your chances of survival. Spending a few minutes preparing ahead of time could be the difference between life and death. There are several ways to prepare for a tornado. 

  • Identify the safest place for your family to go in the event of a tornado. A basement or storm shelter would be preferable but if those are not available find a small, interior room that will work. This room should be windowless, and on the lowest level. Consider storing blankets and pillows, or anything that may shield you from the storm in this room.
  • Pack an emergency kit to keep in the room. This should include water, snacks, medical supplies, a few days’ worth of medication if needed, flashlights, and batteries. Additional items would be insurance information, backup battery chargers for cell phones, bicycle helmets, an extra pair of shoes, and a personal alarm in case you become trapped. 
  • Sign up for local emergency alerts or weather alerts for your area.

Surviving a Tornado

When there is a tornado threat, go to the safe location you’ve set up for your family. Shield your neck and head, wrapping blankets and whatever you can find around you. Listen to the weather station or local alert system for instructions.

If you are trapped in a vehicle or outdoors, cover you head and neck the best you can. Do not take cover under an overpass or try to outrun a tornado.

After a Tornado

  • Depending on the condition of your home, there are several factors to consider after a tornado. If you are trapped, turn on an alarm, bang against pipes or walls, whistle. If not trapped, don’t leave the safe room until the local emergency officials say it is okay. Make sure you are wearing shoes and gloves if possible. This will help prevent injuries due to sharp or loose objects. Be very careful when heading out of the home. 
  • Be sure to contact your family and loved ones so they know you are okay and can spread the word. This can be done through text, social media, or phone calls. 
  • When assessing the damage, be sure to wear pants, gloves, and sturdy shoes. It is estimated that about half of all tornado related injuries are due to rescues or clean up. Watch for downed lines, broken glass, and nails. 
  • If you suspect damage to your home, shut off the electric and gas, and anything else which may cause a fire or an explosion. Inspect water supply pipes, sewage pipes, and any broken or frayed wires. 
  • Check on neighbors.
  • Stay away from broken trees or limbs.
  • Homeowners insurance will generally cover damage to your home or personal belongings. Some insurance will pay for living and hotel expenses. Be sure to keep an inventory of all your belongings.

Help With Tornado Damage

If you experience tornado damage to home, don’t hesitate to call for help. 24-hour assistance is available by calling 877-960-0491. You’ll be connected to a local professional who can answer your questions and come to your home to start addressing the damage right away. It is a toll free call, and the home inspection and estimate are free as well.

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