In the past:
Tornadoes are not just a central plains phenomenon! Tornadoes have occurred in every state of the US. Tompkins County does not often see tornadoes -- windstorms are more common -- but that does not mean we never will. Some past storms of note:
- 1896: wind storm strikes the city of Ithaca.
- Sept. 1896: the so-called "Big Storm" strikes the city of Ithaca.
- 1947: another windstorm in the city of Ithaca.
- October 1962: a large rain, lightning, hail, and wind storm strikes across Tompkins County.
- May, 2000: another windstorm strikes the county.
- September, 2002: a windstorm hits the town of Danby.
- Late August, 2003: McLean is hit by a windstorm.
In each instance, the windstorms caused propety damage, partially from downed trees and limbs, partially direct (roofs or siding blown off). Power losses were also very common.
Risk to Tompkins County residents:
Windstorms and tornadoes are always a threat, anywhere in the country. Tompkins
County has a higher risk from windstorms than from tornadoes -- but as any
meteorologist will tell you, tornadoes are highly unpredictable!
The greatest risk to people in a windstorm is wind-blown debris. If you're
outdoors, get indoors quickly! Windstorms will also cause damage to homes and
structures by tearing off siding, blowing roofs off, cutting off power, and
downing trees and limbs which may fall into homes. However, being indoors
and in a safe room cuts your risk of being hit by debris.
How to prepare:
- Have your disaster supply kit ready, and review your family Communication Plan.
- Stay tuned to the radio, TV, or internet weather reports for important information regarding windstorms or tornadoes.
- A watch means conditions are favorable for a windstorm or tornado.
- A warning means a windstorm or tornado is currently in the area. If there is a warning, get to a safe shelter immediately!
- Pick a safe place where the whole family (including pets!) can go in a windstorm or tornado:
- Underground or as low to the ground as possible, and away from windows.
- Basements or storm cellers are ideal.
- If possible, use a room near the middle of your home, putting as many walls as possible between you and the storm.
- Avoid buildings with wide-span roofs, like auditoriums, cafeterias, warehouses, or shopping malls. These roofs are often ripped off in high winds.
- If you live in a mobile home, your safe place should be in a nearby sturdy building, not in your mobile home.
- Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed to reduce the risk of limbs falling on your home.
- Bring outdoor furniture and other outdoor items indoors when a windstorm or tornado watch is announced. Anything left outdoors tends to turn into a missile in a windstorm.
- Consider improvements to your home's construction:
- Permanent storm shutters.
- Reinforced garage doors.
- A wind-safe room (link
to FEMA ":saferoom" webpage).
- DO NOT open windows! There is an old myth that the pressure differences in a windstorm or tornado causes houses to explode. It is not true -- opening windows often causes more damage, and creates more risk for anyone in the house to be hit by flying debris!
- If you are on the road, pull over, get out, and get into a basement of a nearby building. If there isn't a building nearby, get into a ditch and lie flat.
- The old advice to get under an overpass is no longer encouraged. Overpasses tend to act as a wind tunnel, exposing you to more and faster-moving debris!
to tornado safety by the National Disaster Education Coalition.
Although NDEC does not have a document specifically for windstorms,
the advice here applies to windstorms as well as tornadoes.
Red Cross advice on tornadoes.
The Weather Channel.
A good place to stay informed about current and forcast weather conditions.
The National Weather
The National Storm