First Alert Weather In-Depth: Staying safe in a violent tornado

ROCHESTER, N.Y. You may have seen the pictures coming out of Mississippi.

It is hard not to be affected by the scale of the devastation. In terms of the actual severity of this violent tornado, this kind of intensity is only reached in two to three percent of the twisters in the United States in a given year.

This particular tornado started right around the Louisiana-Mississippi state border and then moved to the northeast. It traveled almost 60 miles and had a width of 3/4 of a mile. To give you an idea of the local scale, the width of this tornado was the equivalent of traveling from the Genesee River to almost the Auditorium Theater.

In addition, it was very difficult to see the storm since it happened at night and, as a result, 26 people lost their lives in the town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. But how do we determine the strength of the tornado? There are several tools, but the primary method for meteorologists from the National Weather Service is to measure the intensity by surveying the aftermath.

This rating is called the Enhanced Fujita Scale and at times this tornado had winds probably just shy of 200 mph. When you see the pictures of the destruction, it creates a lot of anxiety – even for us here in Rochester. However, it should be emphasized that it is rare for something of this magnitude in New York state.

There have only been three or four EF-4 tornados in recorded history (we have never measured an EF-5 in New York state). But even if we were to see a violent tornado moving into our area, can you say that you would be prepared?

First, you need to get away from the windows and doors and back away from the outside walls of your house. Then move as quickly as possible to an interior room or stairwell. The bathroom is a good idea because of the small size and the piping in the walls. Then climb into the bathtub, if available, and cover yourself with a mattress.

Fortunately, because we live in Western New York, most of us have access to a basement. The basement is by far the best place to stay safe from one of these severe storms.