THE REVERE TORNADO AND TORNADO SAFETY IN SCHOOLS
At approximately 932 AM on the morning of July 28, 2014 an EF2 tornado touched down in Revere, Massachusetts. It was the first tornado ever confirmed in Suffolk County since records began back in 1950. Fortunately there were no fatalities or serious injuries. The tornado had a path length of 2 miles and a path width of 3/8 of a mile. Maximum wind gusts were estimated at 100 to 120 mph.
The tornado resulted in damage throughout Revere. Numerous houses on Revere Beach Parkway were severely impacted, with one roof completely blown off. Numerous trees were downed
, a few falling onto and crushing cars. A car was overturned at the intersection of Malden Street and Carlson Avenue. More than 100 homes had damage that ranged from siding torn off to portions of roofs lifted or blown off. Several store signs were destroyed. The tornado moved north-northeast and was on the ground for only 4 minutes. This led to a sharp cutoff of damage east of American Legion Highway/Route 60 as it dissipated.
photo credit: Glenn Field - NWS Taunton, MA
On average, a few tornadoes occur each year in southern New England. Most are brief and weak with a rating of EF0 or EF1. They also are more common across the interior than along the coast because the proximity of the ocean often acts as a limiting factor. It is quite unusual for a tornado to occur during the morning hours although it is not completely unprecedented.
We know that tornadoes do occur here, such as the EF3 in Monson and Springfield in 2011, the EF2 in Revere in 2014, and weaker ones in Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2014. The question is, are people prepared? We would now like to focus on tornado preparedness for schools.
Every school should have a tornado safety plan. This plan should ensure that everyone will take cover within 60 seconds. Frequent tornado drills should be conducted. There should be provisions for all after-hours school-related activities.
Every school should be inspected and tornado shelter areas designated by a registered engineer or architect. Rooms with exterior walls should never be used as tornado shelters. Basements offer the best protection. Schools without basements should use interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor away from windows.
Schools should delay assemblies or lunch in large rooms with wide roof spans, such as gymnasiums, auditoriums, and cafeterias. These rooms offer little or no protection for tornado-strength winds and the wide span roofs can collapse.
Students and staff should know the protective position, sitting and facing an interior wall, elbows to knees, and with hands over the back of their heads.
Each school should have a NOAA Weather Radio with battery backup. Remember that the National Weather Service issues a Tornado Watch when conditions are favorable for tornado development and a Tornado Warning when a tornado has been spotted or indicated by radar. If the alarm system of a school relies on electricity, there should be an alternative method to notify teachers and students in case of power failure.
Please remember to make special provisions for faculty and students with disabilities, those with portable classrooms, and those outdoors. Keep children at school beyond regular hours during a tornado warning. For that matter, it would be good practice to delay departure of school buses with severe thunderstorm warnings too, since they can produce large hail and damaging winds without a tornado.