If a Tornado Strikes Your School

By Susan Black

Tornado Alley, an area often hit by powerful twisters, stretches across northern Texas, regions of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado, nearly all of Nebraska, and sections of Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief, however, if your district lies outside this path. Your schools could still be in danger. Oklahoma-based storm experts Chris Boyles and Casey Crosbie recently turned up evidence of “several tornado alleys” during a search of records dating back to 1880. Shreveport, La., and South Bend, Ind., are situated in especially dangerous tornado zones, they report.

In fact, tornadoes occur all over the country. They can strike any time, anyplace, and they can hit without warning.

Wisconsin school officials know these facts firsthand. In 2007, 18 tornadoes swept across the state. Five tornadoes struck on June 7, including one so severe that it spun a 40-mile track across four counties, the longest U.S. tornado path recorded that year.

The state’s peak tornado season is April to August, but Johnnie Smith, Wisconsin’s emergency management administrator, cautions that tornadoes can strike when they’re least expected. On Jan. 7, for instance, 48 tornadoes started in Oklahoma, spread across Missouri, and stretched into Illinois and Wisconsin. Two twisters struck Kenosha County just as the school day was ending, leaving behind widespread destruction.

In April, Gov. James Doyle dedicated a week to emergency preparedness for tornadoes. Statewide, school officials and safety officers were required to update tornado safety plans and conduct emergency drills.

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