Peak tornado season in Missouri begins this month
A tornado touched down Dec. 31, 2010, on Fort Leonard Wood, causing an estimated $90 million in damage. (Photo Credit: Photo by Catherine Threat, 88th Regional Support Command) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Missouri’s peak tornado season occurs between March and May but the storms can occur any time of the year, so community members should develop plans to stay safe.

According to the State of Missouri’s weather safety website, https://stormaware.mo.gov, tornadoes are most likely to materialize between 3 and 9 p.m. They cause an average of 70 deaths and 1,500 injuries in the U.S. every year, and the strongest ones have winds exceeding 200 mph.

“A lot of the military and civilians who are not from this part of the country just don’t think about tornadoes,” said Troy Carney, Installation Emergency manager. “That is the last thing on their mind. Changing this way of thinking is my No. 1 priority. Awareness is the biggest force multiplier during severe weather.”

Tornado watch vs. tornado warning

Which one means more danger? A tornado watch means there is a watch for activity but no tornadoes have been seen yet. A tornado warning means it’s time to raise the alarm because a tornado has been sighted.

During a tornado watch, it’s crucial to get updates as soon as they become available. Turn on the television, radio or computer and navigate to the local weather channel or news station.

“If we’ve got severe storms already there, that’s the trigger for us to say, ‘this could be a tornado event,’” Carney said. “The awareness factor is the big thing because (most of the time) there is a storm already there of some sort.”

During a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.

“If you hear the sirens, take action — that’s the biggest thing,” Carney said. “The (statistics) say that more people are killed from inaction than anything when it pertains to severe weather.”

Find a sturdy building if caught unaware and outside — do not hide under an overpass or bridge.

The Emergency Operations Center reminded community members that both the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence headquarters building and General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital have designated tornado shelters, should one be outside and close to those buildings during a storm.

“Worst case — if you’re not in the car or on a bike, find a ditch,” he said. “It still works. Getting in a low level, if anything, (could) save your life.”

If there is an underground level in a building, such as a basement or cellar, go there. If not, stay away from windows and go to the most inner room of the first floor.

Do not worry about prized possessions outside in the car; don’t spend time gathering expensive belongings in a home; and most importantly, do not risk lives by standing outside to observe a storm — meteorologists and climate science professionals will likely have videos online afterward.

The No. 1 priority during potentially catastrophic storms such as tornadoes should always be staying safe.

Peak tornado season in Missouri begins this month
Tornadoes are sometimes labeled with terms such as “F3” to describe their severity. Beginning in 2007, the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Scale classifies twisters according to wind speeds, with the least severe being labeled “EF-0.” (Photo Credit: Chart courtesy of the National Weather Service.) VIEW ORIGINAL

Stay aware

Carney said the EOC receives its notifications from the National Weather Service station in Springfield, Missouri, some 97 miles away, and because of that, Fort Leonard Wood residents may not have time to delay.

“The National Weather Service in Springfield is awesome and they do a great job, but they can only tell us when they see it, and by then, it’s already started,” he said. “It’s not like a hurricane where you can get three, four day’s notice that it’s coming.”

“When they see (tornado activity) on the radar, it’s already started or starting to form,” he added. “They send out the message to everyone, and we’ve basically got 10 minutes to push out emails, texts, sirens to let the entire population of the installation know, ‘take action.’”

While all service members are automatically enrolled in the ALERT! Mass Warning Notification System, family members have to do so manually.

“If (family members) have not signed up to receive ALERT! notifications, get ahold of me,” Carney said. “Dependents have to do it through either myself or one of the folks that work in the EOC.”

To contact the Emergency Operations Center, call 573.563.6126.

The Fort Leonard Wood Weather Alerts page — https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/Garrison/weather — is updated at 5 a.m. every day year-round and as weather conditions change.

The fort’s ALERT system — https://alertservices.csd.disa.mil — automatically sends alerts of hazards on or near the installation.

The installation’s Facebook page — www.facebook.com/fortleonardwoodmissouri — is typically updated the fastest regarding road conditions, facility closures or official announcements.