What you need to know to be prepared for a tornado year-round

Shanise McMorris grieves on the slab of her Hattiesburg, Miss., home after an early tornado hit the city, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. The tornado was part of a wall of stormy weather traveling across the region, bringing with it rain and unstable conditions. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Tornadoes can strike any time of the year, which is why it’s important to have a plan for severe weather events.

Deadly tornadoes in the Southeast over the weekend were a reminder to always be prepared. The storms there tore neighborhoods apart. They killed at least 19 people in one weekend – more than the number of people killed by tornadoes in the U.S. all of last year.

“Make sure that you have a plan. Have a plan, know where you’re going to go,” said Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency Director Dennis O’Hara. “Are you going to go to the basement? If you don’t have a basement, where are you going to go? What’s the most interior room in your house? Is it a closet? Is it a sturdy table? Is it a bathroom?”

Tornadoes in January are rare, but they can happen. There is an average of 35 tornadoes every January in the U.S.

O’Hara said you should start making emergency plans right away because tornadoes are not just a summertime event.

“We can have tornadoes 12 months out of the year, so it really doesn’t matter the time.”

However, this time of year is the only time you can apply for government money to help you be prepared for severe weather.

Don’t know the safest room to escape a storm? Maybe you need to build a safe room. They can withstand winds up to 250 miles per hour, which is an EF-5 tornado, but they’re not cheap to install.

Until March 6, you can apply for the Ohio EMA’s Safe Room Rebate. If you’re selected, it’s worth thousands of dollars.

Ohio EMA spokesperson Jay Carey said the entire state is at risk for tornadoes.

“Generally, the safe rooms are anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 and up to 75 percent of the costs will be covered by federal funds for those accepted into the program,” he said.

To apply for the federal money and the chance to get your own safe room, visit the Ohio EMA’s website.

If you’re building an emergency preparedness kit, you’ll need to following items to be ready for anything from a tornado to a snowstorm:

  • One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking and sanitation
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio with tone alert, and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar chargers

For more emergency supplies or to learn what to pack in a first aid kit, visit ready.gov.