FEMA and WHN Offer Sound Advice about Surviving a Disaster

Tornado season is in full swing for parts of the country. Other natural disasters have been reported throughout the nation. Being prepared can make the difference between safely weathering the storm and becoming a victim of the disaster!

  • WHN TIP: Click here for a comprehensive list of natural disasters, preparedness, survival and rebuilding provided by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If you find this site challenging to navigate, visit the Natural Disasters section right here on the WHN website for advice, helpful links and forms to complete.

If you don’t already have a weather alert radio, this would be the perfect time to purchase one.  You can do a simple Google search for “weather alert radios” options and detailed explanations about the different types. You can also try a consumer search site for reviews and ratings of different models.

A good friend of a WHN reporter experienced a tornado firsthand during Memorial Day weekend in 2008. She was home alone in Hugo, MN when the EF-3 tornado with wind gusts of 136 to 165 mph hit the city. The tornado struck at about 5:30 p.m. on the Sunday of Memorial weekend, May 25, 2008 and tore a mile-long swath through a residential area. About 675 homes were damaged and 60 of those were deemed uninhabitable. (One 2-year-old child was killed. His sister, just five years old, was severely injured and still requires a wheelchair a year later.)

Our friend was in a townhouse complex with seven units, none of which have basements. She didn’t have a weather radio or a concrete plan outlining the best course of action. Luckily, when she noticed that the water in the toilet was splashing wildly, her first instinct was to get to the lower level and into a secure corner. The combined weight of the attached homes helped anchor them against the tremendous force of the winds. Her recount of the experience included the usual “it sounded like a freight train” and “I could hear deafening sounds of buildings being destroyed”.

After the storm had passed, she surveyed the damage to her home. Baseball-sized hail had crushed the master bedroom window and the floor was covered with huge ice chunks. Siding blew off some of the units, but the townhouses suffered little more than window and outside damage, even though nearby blocks were all but destroyed.

She used her cell phone to keep in touch with her parents in another city during the storm, but had to hang up during the worst of it due to the extraordinary amount of noise. She didn’t sustain any injuries.

Due to the holiday weekend, many families were away. This twist of fate proved to be a major factor in reducing the number of injuries and fatalities.

A year after the disaster, according to Hugo city officials, two of the ruined homes still have damage and three or four lots remain vacant and are on the market. The rest of the homes have been restored.

  • WHN TIP: Officials in cities with siren warning systems often remind residents that the sirens may not be audible inside a dwelling. Advisories may be broadcast many hours before a storm and should be your first warning to go through your survival plan. Conducting drills with your family is a great way to ensure everyone knows what to do in the event of a storm, especially if it arrives with little or no warning.

Review your plan while the weather is beautiful.  Your time will be well spent!

If you have questions or would like to share your experiences, please email me: Leann (at) WhatHappensNow.com.

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