Tornado Safety, Singing Frogs, and Other Spring Topics

This installment of a regular feature considers such spring topics as tornado safety, singing frogs, and May Day.

| April/May 1994

If you're looking for that wonderful thing called variety, you certainly can find it in nature. And especially in spring. Among our spring event topics in this column for April and May are tornado safety, singing frogs, eclipses, and May Day—the holiday that leads off the month of flowers.

Tornado Safety

Although May can bring us some of our most pleasant days, it is also prime time in many parts of the Midwest for the most violent of all atmospheric phenomena—the tornado.

Tornado funnels range from tens of yards to about a mile across. They may pass in a matter of seconds at forward speeds of seldom more than 40 or 50 mph. But it is the tremendous upward suction and especially the rotational speeds of up to 300 mph that can be deadly.

There is much to say about these awesome storms, but I want to focus here on safety. Many homes in tornado-prone parts of the country have special storm shelters underground—and that is the place to be when a tornado is heading your way. Mobile homes are crumpled by even small tornadoes. There's an important tornado safety precaution given in older books that needs to be corrected: The southwest corner is not the safest place in the house to be when a tornado, moving southwest to northeast—as they most often do—hits the house. The best advice is to put as many sturdy interior walls as possible between you and the tornado and get down, preferably underneath something that will protect you from falling debris.

Good news is that the NEXRAD system of Doppler radar is in the process of being installed around the United States. These radar systems have already made it possible to give people many more minutes' worth of warning that a tornado is about to descend from the clouds.

Singing Frogs

Before birds ever sang, there were Earth's first singers: the frogs. One of the most familiar choruses is the high-pitched, long-carrying keening of the variety of tree frogs known as Spring peepers.

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