Staying Safe on the Farm: Severe Weather Tips(Photo of calf shed destroyed by the June 16 tornado at Chris Johnsen's farm 10 miles northeast of Miller.) Last week parts of South Dakota where hit hard by heavy rain fall, severe winds and even the touch down of two tornadoes in Hand County. This recent weather has been a reminder that the arrival of spring and summer also brings the arrival of storm season, presenting its own unique set of challenges for farmers and ranchers. Here are a few tips on how you can get prepared and stay safe this storm season: TORNADOES Every year, between 600 and 1,400 tornadoes are reported in the United States that result in as many as 400 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries. One of the worst years in recent history was 1974, when early spring tornadoes killed 315 people in the Midwest and the South. Tornadoes are small but violent storms that can pack up to 250 mph winds and travel 50 miles. One weather system can spawn multiple storms. For example, the Plains Outbreak, April 26-27, 1991, produced more than 70 tornadoes that caused 21 deaths, 308 injuries and more than $277 million damage. In Iowa, most tornadoes occur from April to June between noon and midnight, although they can occur at any time of the year and at any time of the day or night. What to watch for:
- dark, often greenish sky,
- large hail,
- a cloud that looks like a wall, and
- a loud roar, similar to a freight train.
- In an open field, stop and get out of the tractor or vehicle. Lie in a low area or ditch away from the tractor. Cover your head with your arms to protect yourself from flying debris.
- Do not try to outrun a tornado on your tractor. A tornado's speed and direction are deceptive.
- Know which buildings can offer the best protection, such as a building with a below-grade floor (basement), or a building with a strong inner structure (barn). Stay away from the outside walls of the building.
- increasing wind,
- flashes of lightning,
- sound of thunder, and
- static on your AM radio.
- In an open field, find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place is not subject to flooding.
- If you are in the woods, take shelter under shorter trees.
- If you have no shelter, make yourself the smallest target by squatting low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Minimize contact with the ground, and place your hands on your knees with your head between them when your skin tingles or your hair stands on end.
- If you are in a tractor or other vehicle during an electrical storm, stay put. Vehicles often provide better protection than lying exposed in open fields.
- When a flash flood warning has been issued for your area, avoid low-lying areas, and do not drive over low-water bridges, small creeks, or roads that may be soft or partially washed out. It is better to spend the extra time to take other routes than to be caught in swiftly moving floodwaters.