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Tornado Facts and Safety

Tornado Facts

Tornadoes can range in intensity. Wind speeds are measured on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which was implemented in February of 2007:

  • EF0 = 65 – 85 mph winds
  • EF1 = 86 – 110 mph winds
  • EF2 = 111 – 135 mph winds
  • EF3 = 136 – 165 mph winds
  • EF4 = 166 – 200 mph winds
  • EF5 = Over 200 mph winds

Tetsuya Theodore "Ted" Fujita (1920-1998) developed the original Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale. The scale was changed to the “Enhanced” Fujita Scale in 2007, after more information about the destructiveness of tornadoes had been scientifically examined. The estimated wind speeds were updated, and more specific damage requirements were set. Tornadoes are now measured AFTER damage has been assessed, days after a tornado strikes.

The size of a tornado is not necessarily a measure of its intensity. Larger tornadoes can be weaker and less violent than smaller tornadoes that have more intense winds. Tornadoes in the EF0-EF2 range are much more likely to develop than stronger ones, but all tornadoes can be deadly. Following these tips could save your life.

Tornado safety tips

1. Have a plan in place:

  • Know in advance exactly what to do when a tornado nears.
  • Know where to take shelter in seconds.
  • Practice home tornado drills with your entire family.
  • Have your kids draw a picture of their home with their “safe place.”

2. The best shelter is a tornado shelter, or an interior room like a closet or bathroom on the lowest level of your home, away from glass or windows.

  • Bring pillows and blankets to cover yourselves from falling debris and wear bike helmets to protect your head.
  • Have a flashlight and a battery-operated radio to take into your shelter with you.
  • You may even turn your television volume up loud enough so that you can hear severe weather alert updates.

3. If you live in a mobile home:

  • Get out!
  • Find the nearest shelter, like a neighbor’s house.
  • If no other shelter is available, it is safer to lie down, as low as you can, such as in a ditch, outside, covering your head with your hands.
  • Even if your mobile home is tied down it is not a safe place during a tornado.

4. If you’re in your car:

  • Get out!
  • Find shelter in a sturdy building. If you don’t see one, find a ditch away from trees and other cars.
  • Lie down in the ditch with your hands covering your head.
  • If there’s no ditch, find an open area of land away from trees and cars. Lie flat on the ground and cover your head with your hands.

Tornado flattens buildings near Birmingham, Alabama

A tornado damaged several businesses outside Birmingham, Alabama, onTuesday.

>> Read more trending news

Meteorologist Jason Holmes said buildings, including a liquor store and a fast-food restaurant, in the suburban community of Fairfield, west of the city, were reported damaged.

Holmes also told The Associated Press that trees were down and buildings were reported damaged along the Interstate 20 corridor on the southwestern outskirts of Birmingham.

Photographs on social media showed what appeared to be a funnel cloud in the air in the Birmingham area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

30 minutes of hail costs Texas a whopping $480 million

What’s a little hail?

If you’re asking Texas, almost $500 million in damages

Last week, grapefruit-sized hail fell in Odessa for about 30 minutes, the Houston Chronicle reports. But what’s especially newsworthy about the occurrence is that the half-hour managed to cause $480 million in damages, according to an estimate made by the Insurance Council of Texas.

>> Read more trending news

Thousands of homes and some 35,000 vehicles are thought to have been damaged during the storm. 

According to one Insurance Council of Texas official, a hailstorm hasn’t caused as much damage in the area in 20 or 30 years. 

One car dealership reported that all of its 700 vehicles were hit in the storm, totaling an estimated $10 million worth of damage. 

Read more here or here.

NASA finds evidence of 10 new Earth-size planets that could have life

NASA unveiled its most comprehensive findings from its Kepler space telescope mission Monday, including the discovery of 219 new exoplanets, 10 of which are similar in size to Earth and could potentially have life.

The results are part of the final catalog of data released from Kepler’s first four years in space (2009-2013) and boosts the total of exoplanets in the galaxy to 4,034.

The 10 rocky, Earth-size planets orbit “in their star's habitable zone,” (the so-called “Goldilocks zone”) meaning they could potentially support liquid water, Kepler scientist Mario Perez said at a news conference Monday in Silicon Valley, California.

>> RELATED: Follow NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions 

The presence of liquid water is considered a key ingredient to the existence of life.

“Many of the new planet candidates are likely to have small rocky cores enveloped by a thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, and some are thought to be ocean worlds,” NASA shared in its Tumblr blog.

The Kepler data set is the only set containing a catalog of these near Earth-sized planets with roughly the same orbit, according to Perez.

>> RELATED: Amazing NASA photos through the years 

“Are we alone? Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone,” Perez said.

Only three planets in our solar system are within the habitable zone of the sun: Mars, Venus and Earth. “I would only want to live on one of those," Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson told CNN.

Kepler’s latest findings only account for a tiny part of the galaxy (a patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation) and before it launched, scientists expected the frequency of Earth-like planets to be about 1 percent of the stars, Alan Boss, astronomer at the Carnegie Institution, told ABC News.

>> Read more trending news

But according to Kepler scientists, the number is closer to 60 percent.

As Kepler’s first mission comes to a close in 2018, scientists are calling its finality a new beginning.

“It’s amazing the things that Kepler has found,” Thompson said in a press conference. “It has shown us these terrestrial worlds, and we still have all this work to do to really understand how common Earths are in the galaxy.”

Read NASA’s full news release.

WATCH: Sinkhole swallows car after heavy rain in Florida

Florida's Ocala Fire Department responded to a sinkhole that swallowed a car in a shopping center parking lot after heavy rain, firefighters said. 

>> Watch the video here

The sinkhole opened up after 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Gaitway Plaza on Southwest College Road.

The sinkhole is about 20 feet by 20 feet and just as deep, firefighters said. 

Seth Wing saw the driver of the car get out of her vehicle once the sinkhole opened. 

>> Read more trending news

"She just walked out of the car; she was shaking," he said. 

The Gaitway Plaza also was evacuated due to a gas leak. 

"We could smell this intense smell of gas, you know natural gas coming out of the ground and they kind of evacuated the whole sidewalk," said Ronny Pagano, who was at the shopping center at the time. 

>> Read more Floridoh! stories

Firefighters were able to secure the gas line. No injuries have been reported.

Ocala firefighters also responded to several flooded vehicles in the parking lot of the Shady Oaks Shopping Center across the street.

State Road 200 was briefly closed due to flash flooding. 

Florida mall closes as flooding submerges cars in parking lot

Torrential downpours that soaked most of South Florida have closed one of the largest outlet malls in the United States. 

>> Read more trending news

The Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, Florida, announced that it would be closed Wednesday, CBS Miami reported

Several cars that tried to plow through the puddles on Tuesday whose drivers anticipated shopping delights ended up getting trapped.

“My car is stuck underwater,” one woman who parked there on Tuesday told Local 10.

Dozens of other cars were also trapped in pools of puddles in the parking lot, CBS Miami said. 

>> Related: PHOTOS: Flooding at Sawgrass Mills Mall 

“Nobody can see anything, even the security guard. He didn’t even realize it, that’s why he put caution tape around it,” mall-goer Michael Reidout told CBS Miami.

Operated by Simon Property Group, Sawgrass Mills Mall, at 2.4 million square feet, is the 10th largest mall in the United States. 

The mall will post updates on its Facebook page and shopping line at 954-846-2350.

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Must-see photo shows man calmly mowing lawn as tornado looms

When a tornado touched down near Three Hills in Alberta, Canada, on Friday, one man wouldn’t let that keep him from his yard work.

Cecilia Wessels posted the photo, which is going viral on Facebook, of her husband, Theunis, as he brazenly mows the lawn with a tornado contorting the clouds behind him.

>> See the photo here

She told CBC News that she gave her husband a to-do list and went to take a nap. She woke up to her daughter telling her that her father refused to come inside even with a tornado on the horizon.

>> Watch: Massive tornado touches down in Calgary, drivers barely notice

Wessels said her whole neighborhood was outside taking photos and videos of the funnel, which caused some property damage but no injuries.

She didn’t expect the photo to get this big, she said, telling CBC: “Now everyone is like, ‘Why is your husband mowing the lawn?’”

>> Read more trending news

Theunis insisted that he was never in any danger. He told CBC: “It looks much closer if you look in the photo, but it was really far away. Well, not really far, far away, but it was far away from us. I was keeping an eye on it”

Tips for coping with the stress after a hurricane

How will you cope? Authorities and mental health professionals offer these tips.  

There is the rush to prepare, the nervous anticipation, the unsettling period during the storm, the loss of property, scavenging gas, or just living without power for a few days.


A hurricane experience can be incredibly stressful. In the weeks after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, nearly 1,000 people called a state mental-health hot line looking for help with problems such as depression and anxiety.


Prepare early to avoid the stress of panic buying.


Storms are unpredictable, and their twists and turns can be maddening. Just prepare as if the storm will hit, and hope it doesn’t. Stay up on media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities so you’re not blindsided by developments.


Don’t go into denial. Don’t have a wild party. Storms are serious business.


If you live alone, plan to ride out the storm with friends or relatives, or consider volunteering at a shelter.


Try to exercise to burn off the nerves.


Now is the time to have a plan for how you will survive and recover after the storm so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task ahead.


Take the time now to get to know your neighbors. Share ideas about how you as a neighborhood will work together after the storm. Find out who has special physical or medical needs, who might need help preparing their house, and who might need assistance following the storm.


If you have a homeowners’ group, consider developing a plan or even holding neighborhood meetings in advance of the season. Consider following “Crimewatch” models.


Find out who might be out of town so you that can keep an eye on their place.

Photos: South Georgia wildfire rages in Okefenokee Swamp

The West Mims Fire in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has prompted evacuations in South Georgia. Officials say the wildfire was ignited by lightning in early April 2017. A state of emergency is in effect in Florida.

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