Category Archives: Tornado

Post Tornado – Things You’ll Need

Here are good tips from tornado survivors – most of these come from the ‘wish I’d thought of these items before the tornado’ list.

Be sure to put this stuff in your home emergency kit just case. Depending on the level of destruction (your home, neighborhood or the entire town?) some of these things may not be easily accessible unless you have it stored ahead of time.

  1. Cash for purchases (Why? If there’s no electricity,  ATMs won’t work.)
  2. Cell phone, phone card, or quarters for land line.
  3. Clothing and personal items – Pretend you’re camping in the woods for two weeks – everyone in your family will need socks, good shoes (cover the ankles!) underwear, deodorant, meds, toothbrush/paste, short and long sleeved shirts/tops, shorts, long slacks/jeans, pajamas, hat (sun protection), diapers, formula, etc.
  4. Pets – Pet food, meds, leash, collar, ID. Also, consider nearby friends/boarders/pet care providers if needed.
  5. Notebook/pen and envelope for your Disaster Diary – track and all cash and credit card expenses, receipts and cash flow, names of disaster agencies, account numbers, phone numbers, and more.
  6. If your home is destroyed, you’ll need to think about temporary housing.  This may be a hotel, maybe a friend’s house?
  7. Finally – you’ll need to ask for help and aid longer than you think.

– Susan

Home Inspections – Good Idea

Having a home inspection every few years is a great idea and can save a homeowner a lot of money and headaches, says Jason R. Hanson, president of Primo Coach, LLC, based in the metropolitan Washington, DC area.

Hanson adds that finding a “qualified” home inspector is tricky. “There are organizations out there such as The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors and The American Society of Home Inspectors that are reputable but others only require that you take a class and pay a fee to be a ‘home inspector’.”

In a nutshell, inspect your home and your home inspector.

Good tip!


Leave Your House in 3 Minutes – What to Take?

If you were forced to evacuate your home and you only had 3 minutes, what would you grab?

The Grab-and-Go kit came about after readers sent us what they wished they’d had after they had to evacuate. Here are 10 things you should have ready to go at any moment.

  1. Cash (at least $100 – ATMs might not work in an emergency), credit cards, checks, IDs
  2. Cell phone and extra charger
  3. Clothing for each family member for a week (grab extra items for winter)
  4. Extra set of house and car keys
  5. Family heirlooms, jewelry, art, anything else that has sentimental value and is “irreplaceable”
  6. Home videos and photos, digital camera memory cards
  7. Important papers (i.e. birth certificates, insurance policies, marriage certificates, house deeds, passports, address book
  8. Medications and other special needs (enough for a week or two)


  1. Put these items in a backpack, duffle, plastic container, etc.
  2. Make sure it is sturdy and possibly water-proof in case of flooding or other water damage (i.e. water from fire hoses).
  3. Tell your family members about the location and importance of this kit and when to grab it!

Remember to update your kit or check on its  location at least once a month.

National Social Workers Month

Social workers help you with any psychological and social needs in a stressful situation.

It’s a broad definition, but the field is broad. You’ll find social workers in hospitals, senior living homes, government organizations, and community services.

Here’s an article talking about what services social workers offer for seniors and hospice care.

And, another good article describing how social workers may help you after a fire or natural disaster.

– Susan

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)

Mississippi’s Overnight Tornadoes

Tornado season appears to be upon us.

AP/MSNBC is reporting “at least two tornadoes touched down in southern Mississippi late Wednesday and early Thursday, damaging dozens of homes and businesses and injuring residents in a small town.”

Reports are that 60 homes have been damaged, and the town of Magee, MI is without power, water and roads in are blocked.

Here’s some info from first responders and tornado survivors to pass along to people in MISS

Disaster Assistance Timeline

Here is a timeline breaking down how your local emergency management services, first responders and other organizations will respond after a natural disaster. The response time and services available will depend on the location, scale and size of the disaster.

The First Few Hours

  1. Within minutes of a disaster, local and regional authorities may be dispatched to severely affected areas, including: law enforcement (sheriff or police officers), firefighters, emergency medical technicians (ambulance) and state or municipal service workers.
    • First responders will immediately go to top priority calls – injuries and to handle life hazards (downed trees and power lines).
  2. Pay close attention to instructions from emergency management and law enforcement agencies. There may be curfews in place for looting control and safety. Hazardous areas may also be restricted.
  3. Media will be doing their best to keep local, state and federal information coming to you. Listen to your radio for the latest updates.
  4. WHN Reader Tip: If you have the chance, use your cell phone and call a relative away from the disaster zone and ask them what the news stations are reporting about your situation. Use this time to update your family on your condition.
  5. The local Red Cross will also be working on gathering disaster response teams to assess the location and scale of damage. If the damage is widespread and affects many homes, they will set up temporary shelters in a predetermined location (i.e. community center, school, church).
  6. Read  How the Red Cross Works to learn how the Red Cross assists individuals and families after disasters.

The Next 72 Hours

  1. Local law enforcement and agencies will be redirecting traffic, securing areas and homes and still be providing first responder emergency services.
  2. Contact your friends and family to let them know you are okay.
  3. Begin documenting the damage of the storm for insurance purposes.
  4. Contact your insurance company to begin the claims process.
  5. You may need to pick up supplies or call in a company to assist with securing your property. You may need to board up windows and doors and place tarps on roofs.
  6. Read Securing Your Property and Hiring Damage Restorers for more tips and advice.
  7. WHN Reader Tip: Contractors and Restorers – Understand that contractors and restorers may be busy due to high demand. Don’t just hire the first contractor available – they may be available for a very good reason! Check their references or contact the Better Business Bureau before going ahead with their services.
  8. Your state governor will decide whether this disaster is a state emergency or not. If the governor declares a state of emergency, this will allow all government agencies to utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities in order to help with the disaster. The National Guard in your state may also be deployed to assist with the efforts. NOTE: If the disaster was forecasted, such as a hurricane, a state of emergency may have been declared before the storm arrived.
  9. Media will continue with updates. Your newspaper may list local phone numbers and people to contact.
  10. The media might also be visiting your town and your neighborhood to take pictures, live shots and conduct interviews. Remember, it is your choice whether or not to grant an interview. It is OK to pause and reflect for a moment on your and your family’s welfare before you decide whether to answer their questions.
  11. Volunteers from many organizations and from the general public will begin to arrive to help assist with the cleanup effort. Want to help others? Read our article Volunteering After a Disaster to learn more.

Three Days and Moving Forward

  1. Depending on the extent of damage, the Red Cross may cease to assist with immediate needs such as food, clothing or shelter. You may be referred to other services or organizations for assistance.
  2. You may have received a claim check from your insurance company by this time. You can use this money to meet your immediate needs.
  3. You may need to start calling more companies for assistance with repairs, rebuilding and other contract work.
  4. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the President will decide whether this disaster should be a federally declared disaster or not. They may take days, weeks or even months on this decision. Read our article How a Disaster is Declared to learn more.
  5. If your area has been declared a federal disaster area, head to FEMA online to apply for assistance. FEMA may also set up offices in your local area to help with questions regarding assistance. Read our article Filing for Federal Relief for tips and advice on the application process.
  6. If they have not declared your disaster eligible for federal relief, be patient. In the meantime, turn to your insurance company, Red Cross and other local organizations for assistance.
  7. Volunteers may still be assisting with cleanup efforts or they may no longer be needed.

– Susan

Why People Don’t Heed Severe Weather Warnings

Find Shelter Now
Find Shelter Now

This is interesting- NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) released information on why some people take cover during severe weather, and others opt to ‘ride it out’ and not take cover.

Their report looked at Super Tuesday (Feb. 5-6, 2008) where 82 tornadoes ripped through nine Southern states, killing 57, injuring 350 and causing $400 million in property damage.

Interestingly – the report found that 2/3rds of the victims were in mobile homes and 60% didn’t have access to shelter like a basement or storm cellar. We’ve got a mobile home prep article here.  If you know someone who lives in a mobile home, be sure to pass this on to them.

The report also said that on this Super Tuesday, many people didn’t think the tornado threat was bad (it was February, not a month known for storms…) so they didn’t take cover.  And then there’s what experts call the optimism bias, which is the belief that bad things only happen to other people.

Read all of NOAA’s Service Assessment reports here.

Tornado Oddities

MSNBC posted such an interesting article about the recent tornadoes in Hugo, Minn. and I just had to write about it here.

Tornadoes are notorious for causing mass destruction often obliterating everything in its path but often some items go untouched:

As residents in Hugo begin to move on from last week’s tornado, some say they noticed a few bizarre things amid all the damage. Jason Akins said the twister unwound a roll of toilet paper in his bathroom — draped it across the countertop, then rewound it in the sink. The toilet paper didn’t even rip.

“All I could say was, ‘You have got to be kidding me,'” Akins recalled.

He also said that winds overturned sofas and ripped away his roof, but dishes of cat food and water were untouched. The cat food was actually still in the bowl. [MSNBC]

While researchers and meteorologists do everything they can in their power to learn more about severe weather, it just goes to show that tornadoes and other forces of nature are still hard to explain.

So what can we do to deal or prepare for something unexpected? Here are a few suggestions from disaster survivors:

1. Do a home inventory. While this may not protect you from the storm, it will protect your assets and help you as you file an insurance claim after a huge disaster. Learn how to get started…

2. Make a home emergency preparedness kit. This is a project you can easily tackle in an afternoon. Print out this PDF list and head to the store to buy the items you’ll need.

3. Make an emergency plan.

  • Know where your public shelters are
  • Know the evacuation routes or map out your own route
  • Learn about the emergency plans for your work and your children’s schools
  • Create a emergency exit plan for your home

4. Learn about your own home’s vulnerability. Live in a flood-prone area? Or live near Tornado Alley? Make a list of the likely scenarios that could happen in your area then head to our Natural Disasters section and choose a topic (hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, blizzard, thunderstorms) to learn more on getting prepared.

Have an odd severe weather story? We’d love to hear it! Share your story in the Comments section below!!

Your Office “To-Go” Kit


I spend most of my week at work so chances are I’d be more likely to experience a disaster or emergency here than anywhere else!From severe storms to power outages, a number of things could happen while on the job. Here’s how you can get ready:

1. Review your company’s evacuation policies and emergency exit routes.

2. Find a backpack or something small to keep under your desk that you can grab in a hurry.

3. Add top survival items to the kit – flashlight, food, water, etc. (for a recommended list click here).

Want more? Top work preparedness advice from experts…

Already have a work “to-go” kit? What do you have in it? Share in the Comments section below!