Another factor to remember is that while tornadoes involve higher wind speeds, they typically affect a more focused area. The average width of a tornado is 300 to 500 yards, according to FEMA. Straight-line wind events can impact a much broader area, and are responsible for most thunderstorm wind damage.
Whenever outdoor warning sirens sound, residents are urged to find shelter, take cover, and if possible turn on a radio or TV to a local station for more information and possible emergency instructions. FEMA recommends that all businesses and households have a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, which provides 24-hour information directly from National Weather Service offices.
Kness reiterated that while many smartphone applications will provide notifications of severe weather and dangerous conditions before they arrive, it is best to use them in addition to - not in place of - a weather radio, especially at night.
During a severe weather emergency, a basement or other underground shelter is the safest place to be. If this is not possible, the best alternative is a small, interior, windowless room, such as a closet or a bathroom. Kness emphasized that it is very important to put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible, and the smaller the room is, the better, because the larger the wall areas the more likely they - or the roof above them - will give out.
Another recent change that has raised questions is the ability to activate sirens only in certain areas rather than countywide. The county is divided into six zones, and if a particular warning only affects one, or a few, zones, only the sirens in those zones will sound.
“Over-warning is bad too,” Kness explained. If people hear sirens going off and take shelter when they don’t need to, eventually they may start to disregard the warnings and put themselves at risk.