The violent weather in recent days across the Midwest has many people thinking about what to do if a storm comes in and they’re not home. This Friday was a typical one across St. Louis, with fish fry events packing them in at local churches. At St. Gabriel’s in south city, many had never given an emergency plan much thought. Then, Kenny Sturma says, came last April.
“I remember last year we were here and then the tornado hit on Good Friday while we were cooking.”
The good news that night is most people had already left.
“The sirens were going off and we didn’t think anything about it. We were just about done cooking, ya know the fish fry was about over as they were going off,” Sturma said.
St. Gabriel’s church is solid, with a basement, making it a fairly safe location in a storm. That’s a far cry from many of the homes where people were killed two days earlier in Harrisburg, Illinois. At least four of the fatalities came in slab homes with no basement underneath.
But for those who lived through that catastrophe, they was still cover. It was overnight and they were in their homes. And National Weather Service officials say that’s important.
“The first thing we preach now days is pay attention,” Jim Kramper of the NWS said. “Know what the weather is going to be like before you leave. If there’s bad weather expected, consider staying home. If you are out, get to a substantial building as quickly as possible. Don’t be exposed to the elements. That’s how people get killed or injured.”
About the worst place you can be is in your car, because you’re forced to make some quick, potentially life and death decisions if a tornado is moving through. You can try to run from it. Or, if it’s a small twister, you can try to ride it out in the car.
“Weaker tornadoes tornados, the research has shown, they don’t demolish cars. They may push them or flip them over, but if you’re in a seatbelt, duck down and you have a pretty good chance to survive. But then what if it’s a really strong tornado and you see all sorts of debris flying through the air. You have to decide quickly, I’ve got to get some place safe.”
He says you can either stop and try to run for a building or, worst case, take cover in low ground like a ditch and hope debris passes over you.