PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — While people reflect on the 50th anniversary of the deadly 1972 tornado in Vancouver, there are ways to be prepared when a tornado strikes in the area.
KOIN 6 News Chief Meteorologist Natasha Stenbock explains that tornado watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center while tornado warning are issued the National Weather Service office. A tornado watch is something people will be hearing about several hours or even a day ahead of time.
That means tornadoes are possible near the watch area.
“This is when you’re supposed to kind of review your emergency plans,” said Stenbock. “Check supplies and make sure your safe room is ready to go and be ready to act quickly.”
What about a tornado warning?
That means a tornado is going to happen in your area, she added.
Stenbock said this becomes a bit complicated for the Pacific Northwest because it’s not often that we get warnings or even watches.
“In the time that I’ve been on air here in Portland, there has been only one occasion where there was a tornado warning minutes ahead of an actual tornado. That’s only because there were observers on the ground confirming that what they saw on radar was actually a tornado,” she explained. “It doesn’t pop up on radar here like it does, let’s say, in the Midwest or in the South.”
When talking about the deadly Vancouver tornado in 1972, Stenbock noted that people did not have the same tornado warning system setup. The tornado killed six people and injured hundreds.
She described the system as “archaic.”
Stenbock said it’s also tough for people to rely on their phone’s generic weather app when severe weather is imminent.
“If you’re using our PDX weather app, we do push notifications. If you’re not familiar with our weather app, you should definitely download it because if there is a watch warning, or even just an advisory, that is when you’re going to get a notification based on your geolocation,” she said. “I can’t promise you that all weather apps have that.”
She suggests for people to have a ham radio ready in case of an emergency along with turning on your phone’s location services.
When asked why the best preparation comes from your local news station, Stenbock said, “We go on air immediately to let you know about it.”
She added, “We also have the ability to run a crawl. So, it’s basically a streaming message at the bottom of your screen letting you know there’s something happening. We might use that crawl for instance, if there was a severe thunderstorm warning or if there was a tornado watch that had been issued by SPC.”
Stenbock hopes people take warning messages seriously whether it be a severe thunderstorm or a tornado that catches ground.
KOIN 6 News also put together ways to prepare for a tornado along with breaking down how much tornado technology has changed throughout the years.