Opinion | Be prepared for tornado season

Sarah Cosner, Contributing Columnist

Tornadoes can be extremely dangerous, and in Alabama, they are very common. Peak tornado season lasts from March to May, and another tornado season in Tuscaloosa lasts from November to early December. Every individual must have an emergency plan in place to be prepared for tornado season.

Peak tornado season can bring severe storms to The University of Alabama campus. Past storms have caused significant damage and loss of human life. In December of 2000, a strong tornado struck Tuscaloosa and killed 11 people while injuring many more. Many remember the tornado outbreak on April 27, 2011, where 240 people were killed across the state. Six of those individuals who died were students at the University.

When there is a possibility for tornadoes, the National Weather Service will issue a tornado watch. If a tornado is located on a radar, a tornado warning will be issued and individuals should seek shelter immediately. 

However, students should not wait until a tornado warning is issued to take action. These catastrophic events prove that tornadoes should be taken seriously, and students should take action sooner rather than later.

There are a variety of precautions that can keep individuals safe when the threat of tornadoes is high.


Locate your nearest tornado shelter

The University has several tornado shelters that open when a tornado watch is issued. A tornado watch indicates that there is the possibility that a tornado can form. While many seek refuge in these tornado shelters, others do not have the ability to get to shelters in time. 

Luckily, the University has identified safe spaces in all on-campus buildings for when shelters are inaccessible. These spaces are known as best available refuge areas and are typically located on lower levels of campus buildings.

On-campus residents should locate the best available refuge area in their housing community before there is a risk for tornadoes to occur. Students should know where to go as part of their emergency plans, which can reduce anxiety and panic if a tornado is in the area. 

Many off-campus apartment complexes do not have tornado shelters for students who live there. It is important for off-campus students to identify the closest tornado shelter and plan to arrive before weather worsens. 

It is never a bad idea to arrive at a tornado shelter or refuge area soon after a watch is issued. Students can bring certain electronics, books, games and other forms of entertainment to pass the time.

If students cannot make it to a tornado shelter in time, it is recommended to take shelter in a room farthest away from windows and as close as possible to the center of the house or apartment. 


Listen to Weather Alerts and Stay Informed

There are several channels of communication through the University to receive information about strong storms or tornadoes. 

The University’s alert system, UA Alerts, sends messages to students and faculty when weather alerts are issued. In order to receive these alerts, students and faculty must update their contact information listed in their myBama accounts.The UA Safety App is also a crucial tool to access during tornado season. The UA Safety App lists shelters and refuge areas while streaming emergency radio during a weather event. This can be downloaded from any app store.

Tornadoes are a reality here at the University, and students should recognize this threat and prepare ahead of time. Early tornado preparation can help protect individuals from harm and keep the campus community safe.