For much of America’s flyover territory, tornado warnings are a part of life for much of the year.
Because dangerous cells are so frequent and fickle — often abruptly changing direction or losing steam at the last minute — they are often discounted or underestimated — until a big one hits close to home.
Fortunately for a group of employees at Pulaski County Title in Little Rock, Arkansas, they had the good sense to take the tornado warning seriously as a dark cloud barrelled down on them March 31.
No sooner did the last two workers clear the glass-fronted walkway than the storm hit the building with full fury, filling the air with debris as doors were yanked open and the glass windows shattered. KATV later confirmed the tornado was a category EF-3.
At the end of that video, the employees filter back out of their safe room, looking around in awe and holding up their cell phones to take photos and video of the damage.
“Ten seconds slower and they would have been hurt,” Yakoubian commented.
— Todd Yakoubian (@KATVToddYak) May 4, 2023
Have you taken shelter from a tornado?
A follow-up news report by KARK-TV reported that the building suffered extensive damage in the storm, with windows shattered and part of the roof collapsed. Virtually every employee’s car in the parking lot was damaged beyond repair.
“It was like a warzone,” Mark Barazaneeh, general manager of Hadidi Oriental Rugs, told Newsbreak.
He said he and four employees sought shelter in a closet and heard the storm pass over.
“We came out and then we were in shock at the damage,” Barazaneeh said. “There were so many ladies outside shaking.”
Yakoubian also shared a video on Facebook of the same storm from another viewpoint, this time by people who stood next to a glass door and recorded a video as the storm bore down on their building.
In that case, the person shooting the video ended up getting thrown to the ground as shards of glass and debris filled the air, but Yakoubian reported that those in the video escaped with only minor injuries.
The National Weather Service offers these tips for what to do during a tornado:
- Stay Weather-Ready: Continue to listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay updated about tornado watches and warnings.
- At Your House: If you are in a tornado warning, go to your basement, safe room, or an interior room away from windows. Don’t forget pets if time allows.
- At Your Workplace or School: Follow your tornado drill and proceed to your tornado shelter location quickly and calmly. Stay away from windows and do not go to large open rooms such as cafeterias, gymnasiums, or auditoriums.
- Outside: Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately if a tornado is approaching. Sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Neither is a mobile home or tent. If you have time, get to a safe building.
- In a vehicle: Being in a vehicle during a tornado is not safe. The best course of action is to drive to the closest shelter. If you are unable to make it to a safe shelter, either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.