A chain of deadly thunderstorms that spawned dozens of tornadoes across the southern United States has devastated communities throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. This outbreak of catastrophic weather began last weekend in central Arkansas and continues to concern many as the tornadoes head northeast.
At the height of this tornado outbreak, these storms demolished numerous homes and businesses and serve as a reminder of the importance of emergency preparedness and tornado insurance.
Emergency workers and volunteers are working tirelessly to find survivors and missing persons. The Associated Press has confirmed at least 15 fatalities caused by tornadoes that hit the suburbs of Mayflower and Vilonia, outside of Little Rock.
The damage and devastation can be compared to a war zone, with numerous homes and buildings reduced to nothing but their concrete slab foundations. As the tornadoes approached the communities outside of Little Rock, locals opened their underground shelters to neighbors and people caught in the storm.
Becky Naylor, a resident of Mayflower, sheltered about 22 people in her underground cellar. According to Naylor, "People were pulling off the highways and were just running in." As people scrambled for refuge in her storm cellar, "It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound".
Along Interstate 40, cars and 18-wheelers were caught in the storm and torn apart by the high winds. After wreaking havoc in Mayflower, the tornado moved to the nearby town of Vilonia, where early reports estimated that it reached a width of half a mile. One Vilonia subdivision saw the total destruction of 36 brick homes.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the EF rating of these particular tornadoes has yet to be determined. The American Red Cross has established temporary shelters for those displaced by the tornadoes and is accepting donations.
Arkansas Officials Believe Emergency Preparedness Saved Many Lives
When these severe weather patterns strike, the most important thing a person can do is seek shelter immediately. Arkansas officials and the National Weather Service believe that the death toll would have been much higher if locals had not responded to weather forecasts and warning systems through text message alerts. Many survivors had also developed emergency preparedness plans prior to the outbreak of the storms.
Devastating tornadoes and other types of severe weather remind us of the importance of emergency and disaster preparedness. Although tornadoes tend to strike more often in the South and Midwest, all states are at risk for tornadoes, among other types of weather-related disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides practical tips for emergency preparedness planning on its official website.
While predicting the destruction of property from high winds and tornado activity is practically impossible, those who develop disaster preparedness plans have an increased chance of survival. Beyond bracing for the duration of the storm, household members should have easyy access to basic necessities such as water and food, along with a medical kit.
These items are best kept in a storm cellar or basement, or an interior, windowless room in the home. Other items to consider having on hand are flashlights, blankets and a crank- or battery-powered radio.
FEMA encourages all households to have at least a three-day supply of water and food for all persons. Each person will require about a gallon of water a day. Other essential supplies to pack in an emergency kit include a whistle, which can be used to alert rescue and search party members if you or your family are trapped in a building or under debris. FEMA also recommends storing extra batteries for radios and flashlights with your food and water.
Your medical kit should contain an assortment of bandages, sterile wipes, gauze, tweezers, latex gloves and antibiotic ointment along with over-the- counter pain relievers and allergy medication. It is also recommended that you store a few days' supply of any prescription medication.
Protecting Your Property and Vehicles with Insurance
Since tornados are so volatile and destructive, independent insurance agents emphasize the importance of holding homeowners, renters and comprehensive vehicle insurance policies. This is because the destruction of property caused by severe weather can easily exceed thousands of dollars.
Policyholders should carefully review their current plans to ensure that they have enough coverage to replace damaged buildings, vehicles and belongings so that out-of-pocket expenses are minimized. If you have questions regarding your policy or need to expand your coverage, a consultation with an agent is a wise decision.
Your agent can review a variety of coverage plans from different insurers and help you choose the best one for your needs and budget, including an affordable tornado insurance policy.