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Time to prepare for natural disasters now

Disasters can alter a family’s normal routine with little to no warning. Neighborhood streets can be closed because of large debris or downed power lines. Suddenly, an area that is a familiar part of a normal daily routine is now unrecognizable. In times like this, it is crucial for a family to have a plan to reunite and meet at a safe location.

With severe storm season around the corner, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages families to create a plan for both adults and children to follow.

Record number of

tornadoes hit Oklahoma,

Mississippi in 2020

Two states set yearly tornado records in 2019, while not a single tornado was recorded in four other states in one of the most active years on record in the U.S.

In Oklahoma, 149 tornadoes were documented in 2019, topping the previous record of 145 tornadoes from 1999. This almost tripled the average annual total since 1950 of 56 Oklahoma tornadoes.

Of that total, 105 of those Sooner State tornadoes developed in just 13 days in May, also topping the state’s May record from 1999 of 90 tornadoes, according to Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norman.

Despite the record number, only four Oklahomans lost their lives from tornadoes in 2019, all in destroyed mobile homes from EF3 tornadoes on April 30 near Blue and May 25 in El Reno.

The previous Oklahoma record year of 1999 included the destructive May 3, 1999 outbreak, one of which was the F5 Oklahoma City metro tornado. Unlike 1999, no violent – EF4 or EF5 – tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma in 2019.

Mississippi also tallied a record annual count of 115 tornadoes in 2019, topping the previous annual record of 109 set in 2008.

Mississippi’s record year came largely from a record-tying April (67 tornadoes) and record-setting December (24 tornadoes).

As in Oklahoma, there were no EF4 or EF5 tornadoes among the record 2019 tally, which helped limit the state’s tornado death toll to three in 2019.

New Hampshire, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii were tornado-free in 2019. Utah averages about two to three tornadoes a year, while New Hampshire averages one tornado annually.

Public shelters

If time does allow and you need to seek out the protection of a public shelter, there are options for Alfalfa County residents.

With ongoing COVID-19 cases being a concern, he advised those seeking safety of the shelter to consider bringing masks and other PPE as a precaution.

Shelters in Alfalfa County are:

• Cherokee: Alfalfa County Fairgrounds, Cherokee Elementary School and armory located on the corner of 2nd Street and Kansas.

• Burlington: Burlington School Band Room.

• Byron: At Fourth Street and Walnut.

• Jet: Timberlake Grade School.

• Aline: Aline High School and Aline Fire Department.

• Carmen: First Christian Church.

• Goltry: West of the fire department.

• Helena: Timberlake High School.

If you can’t reach a shelter in time what do you do?

Studies have shown that casualty numbers increase when citizens are trapped in their vehicles trying to reach a public shelter. If there is not time to reach a public shelter, experts suggest sheltering in place.

Believe it or not your own home can protect you well from a storm if you follow these steps.

Go to the center of an interior room such as a bathroom or closet on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. The main thing you’ll want to do is put as many walls between yourself and the storm.

Although people have ridden out storms in bathtubs, if your bathroom is on the south side (often first side to be hit by the storm) of your home, you are putting yourself in great danger.

It’s imperative to seek out the center most portion of your home (without windows) as this will give you the most protection as the walls between yourself and the storm will absorb the majority of the flying debris, which is the leading cause of death with tornadoes.

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