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St. Louis Under Tornado Warning: Seek Shelter Immediately  



The city of St. Louis and the surrounding St. Louis County are under a tornado warning until 7:15 PM this evening, according to the National Weather Service. Residents are being urged to take cover immediately and remain in their safe places until the tornado threat has passed.

What is a Tornado Warning?

A tornado warning is an urgent alert issued when a tornado has been spotted by trained spotters or detected on radar. This means a tornado is imminent or already occurring in the warned area. When a tornado warning is issued, it is critical for anyone in the path of the storm to immediately seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building and protect themselves from flying debris.

The tornado warning for the St. Louis metro area was triggered by signs of strong rotation detected by Doppler radar, indicating a tornado may have already formed or be in the process of forming from the severe thunderstorms moving through the region. Tornado warnings typically cover areas and communities in the direct path of the detected rotation.

Dangerous Situation Unfolding

Tornadoes are among nature’s most violent and destructive phenomena. With winds that can reach over 200 mph, these powerful twisters can demolish homes, flip vehicles, down power lines, and create destructive paths of debris over a mile wide. Even smaller tornadoes can inflict significant property damage and loss of life if precautions are not taken.

The National Weather Service emphasizes that this is an extremely dangerous situation for those in the warned areas. Residents should not wait to see if a tornado materializes or directly approaches before seeking shelter. The warning itself signals imminent risk and that it is not safe to be outside or in vulnerable locations.

Identifying Safe Shelter

When a tornado warning is issued, the most important action is to quickly get to a safe, interior shelter. For homes and small buildings, this means heading to the lowest floor and putting as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Basements and interior bathrooms or closets without windows offer the best protection.

In larger buildings like schools, hospitals, churches, or offices, move to interior small rooms or hallways on the lowest floor level. Stay away from exterior doors and windows and avoid auditoriums, gyms, or other areas with wide-span roof systems that could easily collapse if struck by tornado winds.

If you are in a vehicle or mobile home when a tornado warning is issued, the advice is clear – abandon it immediately and seek shelter in a nearby reinforced building. Vehicles and mobile homes offer no protection from tornado-force winds and run the risk of being tossed or crushed by debris.

Have a Plan, Stay Informed

Tornado preparedness starts long before a warning is ever issued. All households should have a pre-determined plan that identifies the closest safe room or shelter area if a tornado strikes. It’s also crucial to have multiple ways to receive warnings, such as wireless emergency alerts, NOAA weather radio, local news, and social media. 

With tornadoes, there is little advance notice and seconds can make the difference between safety and being directly exposed to the devastating impact of these storms. Do not rely on being able to see or hear an approaching tornado, as they can be wrapped in heavy rain or only emit audible noises once they are alarmingly close.

In addition to having a shelter plan, every family should also establish a post-disaster reunification plan that designates a meeting place or point of contact. Communication networks can easily be disrupted during severe weather events, so having a predetermined way to regroup is essential.

Weather Conditions Primed for Tornadic Storms

Meteorologists had been tracking the potential for dangerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the St. Louis region throughout the day. Atmospheric conditions, including strong wind shear, ample moisture, and instability, created a volatile environment favorable for supercell thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes.

While tornadoes can occur any time of year if the conditions are right, the traditional “tornado season” for the St. Louis area is March through May. However, tornado activity peaks in April and May, when the clash of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and colder air masses from the north creates an ideal breeding ground for these violent storms across the region.

Historic, Tragic Tornado Events

St. Louis is no stranger to the catastrophic damage tornadoes can unleash. On April 22nd, 2011, a devastating EF-4 tornado tore a 22-mile path through the St. Louis metropolitan area, killing 3 people and inflicting widespread destruction. With winds estimated up to 200 mph, over 600 homes and businesses were severely damaged or destroyed as the twister plowed across several densely populated suburbs.

The impact of that 2011 tornado was a somber reminder of the harrowing Good Friday Tornado Outbreak of April 1957. A violent tornado estimated as an EF5 monster carved a 20-mile path through St. Louis City and County, killing at least 21 people and injuring over 500 more. Areas like Bridgeton, Ferguson and Jennings were completely devastated.

So while tornado warnings spark anxiety and urgency, the St. Louis community understands all too well the importance of heeding them. History has proven that tornadoes making direct hits on urban areas can produce catastrophic loss of life if people fail to take proper shelter.

Stay Safe Until the All Clear

Tornado warnings typically cover areas over several counties and last for 30-60 minutes as the threat moves through. However, the National Weather Service may issue extensions, updates, or new warnings if the tornadic threat persists or additional areas become at risk.

When under a tornado warning, the continuity of TV and radio broadcasts may be interrupted, so it’s important to have access to other sources for receiving warning updates and the eventual all-clear notification that it is safe to leave sheltered areas. Local emergency management agencies will also sound any available outdoor warning sirens to alert the public to imminent tornado threats.

For now, the highest priority is to remain sheltered and stay vigilant until the tornado threat clearly passes. Minor property damage can always be repaired, but lives are precious and irreplaceable. Heed all tornado warnings, have a plan, and stay weather-aware, St. Louis.

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