Tornadoes and Flash Flooding: A Double-Barreled Storm Damage Threat
Blog Summary: SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian helps homeowners and businesses prepare for, survive, and recover from a tornado and a flash flood property damage event.
When a weather system spawns heavy thunderstorms, tornadoes, and flash flooding, the team at SERVPRO of Waxahachie/Midlothian is ready to provide flood and storm damage restoration services 24/7, 365 days a year, including on holidays and during severe weather. The team quickly and safely restores the damaged structure, enabling the homeowner or business owner to return to normal life without delay.
In tandem, tornadoes and flash flooding create a double-barreled threat of storm damage. According to Physics Today, “Tornadoes and flash floods pose substantial threats by themselves, but when they strike simultaneously, the danger is compounded. Another concern for overlapping tornado and flash-flood events (TORFFs) is that the procedures recommended for dealing with each hazard are contradictory: Tornado safety practice advises taking shelter in the lowest central room of a building, and flood safety protocol recommends moving to higher ground. Those conflicting instructions can increase confusion over what to do.”
This confusion is illustrated during an incident that happened during a tornado in Oklahoma in 2013. Prior to the lethal tornado, the storm system also caused flash flooding, which proved to be even more lethal than the tornado. The investigation conducted after the tandem disasters uncovered that many people did not comprehend the significant threat from flash flooding, even though ample warnings were issued by authorities. One survivor reported she remained in her shelter until the flood water left her no alternative but to flee the shelter, hoping the tornado threat had passed.
The Challenges to Meteorologists
A TORFF event (tornado and flash flood occurring simultaneously) also challenges meteorologists tasked with identifying the warning signs that point to a TORFF. The challenge arises from the fact that the early warning signs for a tornado differ significantly from the warning signs of flash flooding.
Tornadoes are spawned by fast-moving storm cells, but flash flooding is usually caused by a slow-moving storm cell. Forecasters must closely monitor weather conditions, watching for the overlapping of characteristics that can produce both flash flooding and tornadoes in the same weather event.
Safety during a TORFF Event Depends on Several Factors
Real-time knowledge of changing weather conditions accompanied by an appropriate and timely response to the alerts posted by weather forecasters can save lives and avoid personal injury.
Weather forecasters must:
- Closely monitor weather conditions and identify the early warning signs of both tornadoes and flash flooding
- Accurately predict both the path and development of a storm cell which has the potential for both tornadoes and flash flooding
- Promptly communicate the appropriate alerts to the affected communities
- Swiftly notify communities of any changes in predictions and alerts
Communities potentially impacted by the impending weather must:
- Pay close attention to weather forecasts
- Swiftly respond to alerts issued by the National Weather Service for their areas
- Remain aware of and instantly respond to changing weather conditions
Practical Tips for Weathering Severe Weather
Listed below are some practical tips to help Midlothian, TX residents survive severe weather involving heavy rain, tornadoes, flash floods, power outages, and storm damage to a home or business.
Always Be Prepared for Any Size or Type of Disaster
Have an emergency plan that includes but is not limited to:
- first aid and personal hygiene supplies
- food and water
- flashlights and batteries
- stocked knapsacks for emergency evacuation
- phone charger (solar-powered)
- weather radios
Businesses Can Execute an Emergency Response Plan
SERVPRO offers an Emergency READY Plan at no cost. The plan minimizes business interruption in the event of a disaster and guides the business owner or manager through an assessment of the facility that generates a concise profile of critical information needed in the event of a property damage disaster. Also, the plan outlines a clear, fast path to recovery. It establishes the local SERVPRO as the dedicated disaster mitigation and restoration provider. Facility details, including shut-off valve locations, priority areas, and essential contact information, are identified and archived. The plan also helps streamline the insurance claims process. With an emergency plan in place, a business only needs to make one call to secure professional property damage cleanup and restoration services when a disaster strikes.