The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch at 12:05 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST) on Dec. 23, 2015. According to the NWS Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., the watch in effect from 12:05 a.m. until 7:00 a.m. CST.
Affected areas include East Texas, Northwest Louisiana, Southwest Arkansas, and Southeast Oklahoma. There is a 30 percent chance of more than one tornado touching down. Additionally, there is a 20 percent probability of one or more EF2 to EF5. The Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale is used in the U.S to rate tornadoes based on the potential damage they are capable of causing. According to the scale, an EF2 could produce winds of 111-135 miles per hour (mph) and an EF5 may bring winds up to 200 mph.
Thunderstorms are expected with the possibility of hail as large as two inches in diameter. The storms could produce wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour.
Residents are advised that a tornado watch means the weather are favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. It is important that those in the watch areas be attentive to the weather conditions and listen for updates.
The American Red Cross reminds those in a tornado to seek shelter in a basement or safe room. When either of these are not available seek safety in a small interior room or hallway that is windowless. The lowest area in a sturdy structure is the safest alternative.
It is important to remember that mobile homes are not safe shelter in severe winds. When possible leave a mobile home for a sturdy vehicle or structure. Do not wait to see the tornado before seeking safety. Do not forget to use the seat belt in a vehicle if driving to a safe place to wait out the storm.
If there is flying debris when driving, pull over, park, remain in the vehicle, remain seatbelted, and bend down lower than the windows. If possible, use a blanket or coat to prevent injury from any broken glass that might occur. However, if safe, one might choose to leave the vehicle for an area that is lower than the road.
By Cathy Milne
National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center: Tornado Watch 556
American Red Cross: Tornado safety
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