Although severe tornadoes are most common in the Plains States, they can happen anywhere. The National Weather Service has confirmed that a small tornado touched down in New Jersey last week. This is the sixth tornado this year in a state that normally averages two per year.
“Tornadoes are violent and can occur quickly with little or no warning,” said Rosie Taravella, CEO, American Red Cross New Jersey Region. “In New Jersey, we’re more familiar with hurricanes, which usually allow a few days for us to prepare prior to landfall. It is crucial to pay attention to any tornado WATCH or WARNING when issued and act accordingly.”
The Red Cross urges everyone in New Jersey to be better prepared for severe weather and the next tornado warning. People should keep informed with local news updates and watch for signs of a storm such as darkening skies, increasing wind or lightning flashes, and should postpone outdoor activities during these conditions.
Families should discuss their tornado emergency plans so everyone knows where to go if a tornado warning is issued. Discussing ahead of time helps reduce fear, especially for younger children. Read on for other preparedness and safety steps.
BEFORE THE STORM:
• Keep informed about any tornado watches and warnings issued.
• Pick a safe room—a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
• Move items inside that could be picked up by the wind such as lawn furniture, trash cans and hanging plants.
• Watch for tornado danger signs such as dark, often greenish clouds, a wall cloud or cloud of debris, large hail, a roaring noise or funnel cloud.
DURING A TORNADO:
• Go to an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If these are not available, go to a small windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
• If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you can’t get to one quickly, get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the nearest sturdy building.
• If driving, either stay in the car with the seat belt on and put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible. Or, if you can get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, get out of the car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
• Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes. Do not seek shelter in the hallway or bathroom of a mobile home. If you can get to a sturdy shelter or vehicle, abandon the mobile home immediately and go to the nearest sturdy building, using your seat belt if driving. Do not wait until you see the tornado.
People should download the free Red Cross EMERGENCY App to have severe weather alerts like tornado warnings and flash flood warnings, safety information about what to do before, during and after disasters, and shelter locations available on their mobile device. Red Cross apps are available in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
Households should build disaster kits with enough supplies for at least three days, including water (one gallon, per person, per day), nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, a seven-day supply of medications, a multi-purpose tool, sanitation and personal hygiene items and copies of important personal documents. They should also have a disaster emergency plan in which each person knows how to reach other members of the household. The plan should also include an out-of-area emergency contact person, and where everyone should meet if they can’t go home. n
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit redcross.org or visit on Twitter at @RedCross.
The American Red Cross provides programs and services to a population of 8.8 million in New Jersey. The Red Cross trains and mobilizes more than 4,500 volunteers who support the delivery of services throughout the state. In New Jersey last year, the Red Cross responded to more than 900 local disasters, mostly home fires, helping more than 2,250 displaced families; collected more than 94,500 units of blood through blood drives and Red Cross Blood Donation Centers; provided more than 5,114 military family case services with emergency messages, helping families find assistance and/or get counseling and referrals; and trained nearly 110,250 individuals with life-saving skills in preparedness, CPR, AED use, first aid and aquatics. For more information, visit redcross.org/NJ and follow on Twitter @NJRedCross.org.