As residents recover from the damage caused by the recent storms in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges recovery workers, employers and the public to exercise caution during cleanup efforts. OSHA will be providing on-site compliance assistance to workers and the public about the hazards they may encounter, as well as the steps they should take to stay safe. Hazards involved in cleanup work may include exposure to contaminated water or food; heat exhaustion; downed electrical wires; carbon monoxide poisoning and electrical shock from portable generators, and dangers while tree-trimming or working at heights.
According to the NOAA Satellite and Information Systems, here are the classifications of wind speeds:
- EF-1 = 86-110 mph
- EF-2 = 111-135 mph
- EF-3 = 136-165 mph
- EF-4 = 166-200 mph
- EF-5 = over 200 mph
It is hard to imagine how anything remains standing in winds that strong. According to experts, there’s no wind on earth stronger than winds inside a tornado. It’s amazing that more people escaped injury; they had advance notice that allowed them to be better prepared, due to correct weather warnings. This serves as a reminder to all of us to do the following:
- Know the hazards of dangerous weather.
- Pay attention to forecasts.
- Have a plan to stay safe. Think about what you will do in case of a natural disaster and be prepared.
The storms that produced several tornadoes Sunday in Oklahoma and Kansas prompted an unusually blunt warning from the central region of the National Weather Service, which covers 14 states:
“You could be killed if not underground or in a tornado shelter,” it said. “Complete destruction of neighborhoods, businesses and vehicles will occur. Flying debris will be deadly to people and animals.”
Pat Slattery, National Weather Service spokesman for the U.S. Central region, said the advisory was part of a new warning system being tested after a violent tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, killing 158 people and injuring hundreds.
Slattery said the new advisory was reserved for severe tornadoes with the potential to form into “supercell” storms, which produce powerful winds and flash flooding. Supercells are considered to be the most dangerous of four categories of storms because of the extreme weather they generate.
A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration assessment of the Joplin storm found that “when people heard the first tornado warning, they did not immediately seek shelter. They looked for a secondary source to confirm the tornado,” Slattery said. “That got some people killed.”
For those emergency response workers and volunteers, be sure that you are wearing the appropriate safety equipment, for the hazards involved. Have a good supply of fresh drinking water, hand sanitizer, and first aid supplies in case of cuts or scratches. May Mother Nature slow down a little bit on introducing us to spring tornadoes. We would prefer that they stay away completely. It is doubtful that this will happen, so be prepared, and pay attention to warnings from your weather system. They know what they are talking about!
Please note: I prepared this article yesterday, probably during the same time that the horrible tornado was rumbling toward Moore, Oklahoma. Search and rescue workers and volunteers were scrambling to try to locate school children, as the tornado devastated two elementary schools. Work continued through the night. The County Medical Examiner has released the number of dead, and then revised it, so through the day, we will have more accurate figures. My article was intended to help us pay attention to weather warnings. Our county was in a tornado warning for several hours last night, but we escaped any damage in our small town. I don’t know about the other part of the county.
This is a very frightening season for those who live in areas prone to develop tornadoes. Please pray for the parents, grandparents, children and all citizens of Moore, Oklahoma, many who have lost loved ones, and their possessions. pb
Department of Labor; Reuters News Service