July 18, 2001. A tornado measuring F4 on the Fujita scale touches down six miles west of Siren, Wisconsin. The twister cut a path half a mile wide and 20 miles long, killing three people, injuring 16 others, and destroying 170 homes.
Tornadoes are nature's most violent storms. Winds can exceed 250 miles per hour, and damage paths one mile wide and 50 miles long have been reported. They can last only seconds or stay on the ground for an hour, but most tornadoes last less than ten minutes.
On average, tornadoes kill 80 and injure 1,500 people a year. Most of these people die because they don't leave their mobile homes or their automobiles for shelter. Flying debris causes the most deaths and injuries.
Although they're usually associated with spring, tornadoes have been reported in Wisconsin in every month except February.
Watches and Warnings
Tornado Watch Severe weather is creating conditions favorable for tornadoes in your area. Tune to WBAY-TV for updated conditions, but remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Occassionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible.
Tornado Warning A tornado has been sighted by a trained observer or indicated by radar. Seek shelter immediately.
When a tornado is approaching, immediate action can save your life. Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Protect your face and head.
In a home or small building, go to the basement or an interior part of the lowest level, such as a bathroom, closet, or hallway. Get under something sturdy.
In a school, shopping center, or public building go to the designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest level are usually best.
In a high-rise building, if there isn't time to get to the basement go to a small interior room such as a bathroom or hallway.
Get out of automobiles! Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car.
If caught outdoors or in a vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression.
Mobile homes, even with tiedowns, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned for sturdy shelter. If there is no shelter nearby, leave the mobile home park and head for low, protected ground.
Facts and Fictions
Fiction: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage. Fact: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure, plus it wastes valuable time. Leave windows alone and go to a safe place.
Fiction: Low pressure from a tornado can cause a house to explode. Fact: The greatest risk of structural damage is from violent winds and debris slamming into buildings.
Fiction: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes. Fact: Though geographical features can reduce the risk, conditions that spawn tornadoes can occur anywhere.