Welcome to Kansas, are you ready?

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- The personal change of station season is coming to a close and we've welcomed several new families to Team McConnell.

No doubt, our Airmen are excited to be part of the Air Force's Air Refueling Center of Excellence.

For some, this may be the first time being stationed in the Midwest. There are some weather forces that are unique to Kansas that people need to known.

Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries.

The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Please take a minute to review the following information regarding tornado safety and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

Tornadoes may develop during severe thunderstorms. During violent weather, keep tuned to a local television or radio station for tornado reports.

As a tornado develops, it will produce a funnel-shaped cloud with obvious rotating motion and a loud roar that grows louder as the funnel cloud touches the ground, sounding like the combined roars of several jet engines.

A tornado watch indicates that conditions are right for a tornado to develop.

A tornado warning indicates a tornado has been sighted or is spotted on radar. Warnings will give the location of the tornado and the area immediately affected by the warning. If you hear tornado sirens, take shelter immediately.

Most occupied buildings on McConnell have designated tornado shelters. See your facility manager for your facilities shelter location if you don't already know this.

You should designate a safe place in or around your home as a tornado shelter. The safest tornado shelters are underground. A storm cellar or basement offers the best protection. If neither is available, plan to find shelter under heavy furniture or mattresses near the innermost part of the building. Plan tornado drills so everyone knows what to do.

Do not stay in a trailer or mobile home if a tornado is approaching, go to a designated shelter. Trailers and mobile homes are not built to withstand tornado strength winds. Also, do not get in your car and drive. You are safer in a home or basement shelter than in a car.

If you are driving and spot a tornado, get out of your car and go into a nearby building. If you are driving in open country, drive at right angles to the tornado's path if you can safely do so. Do not try to outrun the storm.

If no shelter options are available to you, look for a nearby ditch, culvert, or ravine and lie flat. Protect your head and stay low to the ground.

Another simple way to prepare for emergencies is to create a 72 hour disaster preparedness kit. At minimum, your kit should include: water, first aid kit, non-perishable food items, flashlight and radio with batteries.

For more information about tornado preparedness, please contact CE readiness and emergency management at 759-3645.