them one of the most dangerous weather occurrences in the United States. Most people who live in areas where tornadoes are common are well aware of the dangers, yet many of us still are not prepared. Even those who live in areas where tornadoes are unusual should give some consideration to what they would do in the event of one of these dangerous storms.
Tornadoes can occur at any time during the year, but the most common season for them starts in the spring as the cold temperatures give way to warmer ones. In most cases, tornadoes happen at night, which mean that advance preparation is critical to ensuring we do not get separated from our pets and that everyone survives.
Tornadoes are violent rotating columns of air that stretch between the ground and the base of a cloud, usually a cumulonimbus, but occasionally a cumulus cloud. They come in many sizes and shapes, yet most are visible as condensation
funnels in which the narrow end touches the ground resulting in damage, downed trees and flying debris and dust. The majority of them occur in “Tornado Alley”, a region that stretches across
the center of the United States and includes all or some portion of 17 states. Tornadoes have been observed on every continent except Antarctica and can actually occur anywhere in North America.
The U.S. National Weather Service (USNWS) uses pulse Doppler radar to detect and recognize patterns of storms that may produce hook echoes, which are indicators of a potential tornado. Of course, the most effective means of identifying
a tornado is by sight and from the ground. The USNWS offers classes for volunteers to be weather spotters in order to assist in the efforts of spotting dangerous storms. USNWS has created a network of weather professionals and storm spotters that provide them with vital information so they can inform communities of approaching tornadoes.
“When thunder roars, go indoors!”
Tornadoes usually appear in conjunction with thunderstorms. However, even a thunderstorm without a funnel cloud can be extremely dangerous. Understanding the different alerts used by the USNWS is imperative to understanding when to get your family and pets to safety.
• Severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are right for lightning or damaging winds greater than 58 miles per hour, hail that can reach a diameter of 0.75 inches, and heavy rain. Start
taking actions to protect yourself and your pets.
• Severe thunderstorm warning means one has been sighted in your area or is headed your way. Animals, especially
dogs, often hear thunderstorms long before humans, and will indicate the storm’s approach by becoming anxious, hiding, vocalizing or showing some type of stress. Horses sometimes run around their pasture frantically. You may want to do what you can to help your pets remain calm.
• Tornado watch means that conditions are right for tornadoes to develop and keeping an eye on the sky is imperative.
• Tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted, either by a spotter or on radar. These warnings will give the location and the path of the tornado. Warnings will go out immediately to
areas that can be affected. Take cover when warnings are issued in your area - and include your pets!
You can increase the chances that you and your pets will survive a tornado by preparing in advance. Take the following steps to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe during
thunderstorms and tornadoes
• Make your disaster plan; include your pets in it and practice it.
• Designate a safe area in or near your home where animals can be brought. Pet-proof these areas by closing off and eliminating unsafe corners and places where pets may hide. Remove
dangerous items like tools and chemicals from these areas.
• If you don’t have shelter from a tornado, then stay in the center of your home and away from windows and outside walls. Take cover under solid furniture or mattresses and protect your heads.
Your pets should be in carriers to protect them.
• If you are driving and spot a tornado, then get out of your car with your pets and seek shelter. If you use a ditch, then be watchful for flood waters so that you and your pets do not drown.
Protect your head and stay low to the ground.
• Teach all family members what to do if they are at home, outside or in a car when these storms approach. Teach them how to relocate all animals to safe areas.
• If your animals become extremely stressed during these storms, then look for solutions to diminish their anxiety. Contact your vet for safe solutions, but keep in mind that drugging them could
actually hinder attempts at relocating them to safe areas.
• Bring your pet(s) inside and remember: if it is not safe for you to be outside it isn't safe for your pets either.
• Create an evacuation and first aid kit for your family and pets, keeping it easily accessible.
• Maintain emergency pet supplies as part of your evacuation kit, and secure this in a tornado-proof room or cellar. Be sure these supplies can be easily transported. Include the following in
– An adequate supply of food, water, and treats for your pets
– Sanitation items such as a litter box and litter, puppy pads, and
bags for picking up dog feces.
– Crates for each pet to provide a secure place for them until the
storm passes. Emergency shelters that accept pets will require these before pets are granted access.
– Your pets’ medications.
– Copies of your pets’ vaccination records and a current photo of them with you.
• Make sure your pets’ shots are up-todate.
• Each pet should have a collar with an identification tag that is current and visible.
• Micro-chipping your pet will increase the chances of your pet being reunited if you become separated. Keep your current address and phone contact information on file with the micro-chip
• Train your pets to go readily and calmly into the tornado-safe area.
– Train dogs to go into the safe areas and to come on command during distractions.
– Learn to teach how to quickly and safely secure all your pets.
– Find favorite hiding places and learn how to safely remove pets
Never leave pets chained or enclosed outside in a way that they cannot escape danger.
When tornado warnings go off, take cover and take your pets with you. Taking care of your pets after the storms abate will be just as important. Your home may be very different after a disaster. Familiar landmarks and smells are missing, things may be in disarray, and there may be downed trees and power lines. This can be very distressing and confusing for your pets. Your pets can easily get lost under these conditions. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers until you have completed your damage assessment to prevent escapes. Then get your pets back to their normal routines as soon as you can. Be patient with them as they may develop behavioral issues resulting from stress.
Tornadoes can occur unexpectedly, but by taking precautions and making preparations, pet parents can increase the chances of their pets’ survival and staying with their families.
By Sarah Zumhofe