Much of Kansas thought it was in the clear as March, April and most of May came and went without the familiar sounds of tornado sirens. But the Midwest was reminded by last weekend’s tornados and Tuesday’s widespread severe weather just how quickly typical spring weather can return.


Much of Kansas thought it was in the clear as March, April and most of May came and went without the familiar sounds of tornado sirens. But the Midwest was reminded by last weekend’s tornados and Tuesday’s widespread severe weather just how quickly typical spring weather can return. Mother Nature isn’t always great about giving people a heads up. Technology has allowed us to better predict severe weather and tornados but the science is far from perfect.
During severe weather season in Kansas, it is essential that people understand how and where they can and should take place during severe weather. Everyone is familiar with the safe spots in their homes but do you know where to take shelter while at work or when you are out-and-about or maybe in an unfamiliar community. Below are five things you should know about being safe in unfamiliar territory.

1. Communities are not required to provide storm shelters.
Many towns, including McPherson, used to have community storm shelters that were open to the public. But “designated shelters don’t exist anymore” said McPherson County Emergency Management Director Dillard Webster. There are no state or federal regulations for storm shelters which means public shelters are not a guarantee in each community. Apartment complexes and mobile home parks are also not required by law to provide shelters for their residents.
Jenny Goering, manager of The Well in downtown McPherson, said the business tries to keep up with current weather conditions and does have televisions it will turn on when the threat of severe weather strikes. The business has a shelter but like many businesses, it encourages its customers to stay home during severe weather.

2. Be aware of current weather conditions.
Webster is responsible for sounding the tornado sirens in the county.
“I try to give people 20 minutes of notice,” Webster said.
That being said, storms are unpredictable and tornados can form in only minutes. It is important that if you know you are going to be out of your home during periods of severe weather that you keep an eye on weather reports and know where you can seek shelter.

3. Understand what makes safe shelters.
Closets, basements and interior rooms make the safest storm shelters. But unlikely conditions can provide safety. Many restaurants have several windows, which are not safe in storms, but they also have walk-in freezers that can provide shelter from wind and debris. The problem, Webster said, is that many freezers are only large enough to accommodate about a dozen people. If the storm is not yet in the area, Webster suggests trying to drive home or find another, safe location.
The Storm Prediction Center out of Norman, Okla., suggests learning the location of bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelters of businesses you frequent.
All schools, shopping center, nursing homes, hospitals, sports arenas, stadiums, mobile home communities and officers should have a tornado safety plan in place and visible to patrons.

4. If you don’t know, lay low.
You might be driving through an unfamiliar community when a storm moves in. If you are not in a situation to drive out of the storm, Webster said a ditch or low-lying area is the safest place to be. Vehicles are not safe during tornados Webster said.
“They only become larger projectile objects,” Webster said.
If possible, get 12 to 24 inches lower than ground level. In that position Webster said, you have a better chance of the rotation moving over the top of you. Also try to stay away from cars and trees as you can to avoid any blowing debris.

5. General safety tips.
-In High-Rse Buildings
Interior rooms and halls are the best locations in large buildings. Central stairwells are good, but elevators are not. If the building loses power, you may be in the elevator for a long time. Stay away from glass walls and windows, no matter how small.
-Shopping Centers, Hospitals large Public Buildings
Find the most interior room and halls on the lowest floor. Again, stay away from glass and areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, theaters and warehouses. A bathroom, closet, office, or maintainance room with short walls would be the safest area, especially if it was on the north or east side of the building. No matter where you seek shelter, crouch down and cover your head and neck with your hands or something protective.