Do's and Don'ts in severe weather

The 2007 storm season has gotten off to a quick start with over 49 people killed by tornadoes, including 5 here on the High Plains.

And the peak of the severe weather season is yet to come!

Despite the fact that some of the tornado deaths this year have occurred in schools and homes, most of the deaths this year have occurred in the mobile homes.

As our storm week coverage continues, I dig deeper to find out the facts about just where we should take shelter during severe weather events.

Lots of severe weather, a record setting amount of tornadoes and unfortunately, a record setting pace as far as tornado related deaths are concerned.

One of the things that really stands out this year is the amount of Americans killed in mobile homes. In fact, 36 folks out of the 49 total deaths related tornadoes.

That's roughly 75% of all the tornado related deaths this year!

Steve Drillette with the National Weather Service Office in Amarillo said that mobile homes basically should be treated like cars when tornadoes are close by: Get out and take shelter elsewhere!

"There are two known death traps out there: one is automobiles, the other one is mobile homes. And if you can avoid being in those when a tornado you have your best chance for survival.

"We actually tell people if they're in a mobile home they need to have a plan to get out of that mobile home.

"If there is a storm shelter in place there at the mobile home that's great, but if not, they need to plan ahead of time of where they're going to go.

"If they're going to some neighbors house or some other structure where they're going to have a better safety than staying in that mobile home because its one of the worse places you can be in a tornado," said Drillette.

Some mobile home communities, like the one at Paradise Hills in northeast Amarillo, have a had a community shelter for the residents for the last 30 years.

"It's been here for over 30 years and the intent was for a storm cellar just for the people in this neighborhood to be able to make use of it in severe weather," explained James Bartlett, the manager at Paradise Hills.

"Yeah there's been well over 100 people at least at times and most residents when they talk to us they appreciate it being here. And this time every year people starting asking is the door unlocked. We leave the door unlocked at night so anytime during the night they can make use of it."

The Panhandle Regional Planning Commission is offering a rebate offer to those residents who purchase "safe rooms" for their homes or residences.

John Keihl of the PRPC said that the program's goal is simple and concise.

"I think it's really an important program particularly in light of some of the natural circumstances we've seen over the past several months. We're startin' off with a pretty violent tornado season before the tornado season actually begins," said Kiehl.

The rooms were developed as part of research that Texas Tech did after the massive F5 tornado hit Lubbock back in 1970.

Dr. Robert Kiesling headed up the research that had a very simple and obtainable goal: Saving lives during future tornadoes.

"You notice in some of our post storm visits too often a small part of the house, say a bathroom or closet, remains standing when the rest of the house was totally destroyed.

"So we reckon by putting just a little bit of effort into hardening and stiffening we could make a nearly, absolutely room safe for occupancies," said Dr. Kiesling.

Kiesling and Texas Tech's Wind Research ended up being so good that all these in home shelters survived and protected residents who had these during the May 3rd, 1999, outbreak of tornadoes, that occurred in Oklahoma City, including 1 F-5 tornado that had winds over 300 mph!

Keep all these weather safety issues in mind and talk about where to go and what to do during a tornado or severe weather event now|before severe weather strikes!

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Know your Tornado Terms

Tornado Watch:

Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Tornado Warning:

A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.