Recent tornadoes in north Minneapolis and in Southern states have residents watching the skies and wondering if we're in for a bumpy ride this summer.
At least for now, it's looking that way.
"I suspect that we will see considerably more tornadoes than average," said meteorologist Paul Douglas. "Nationwide, I believe this will be one of the three worst years on record for tornado damage."
We asked two experts for some advice on what we should do to stay safe when a tornado is in the area. Carrie Carlson-Guest is a spokeswoman with the Twin Cities chapter of the Red Cross and Todd Krause is the warning coordination meteorologist at the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service.
Here are their answers to some common questions:
Should house windows be open during a tornado? Windows should be closed. In the 1950-'60s, it was believed that air-pressure differences could cause a house to explode, but research has disproved that. Stay away from windows during storms in case flying debris shatters them.
Where's the safest place to be in a house or apartment? The lowest level of the building. If there is no basement, go to an interior room, such as a closet, hallway or bathroom, away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Try to have as many walls between you and the tornado as possible. If possible, protect yourself from flying debris by getting under something sturdy, such as a table, desk or workbench, and hold on until the storm passes. You can also put on a bike helmet. The debris could blow anywhere, so the southwest corner of the basement is no longer considered the safest if other corners offer more protection.
What about a high-rise building? Pick a place in the center of the floor. Center hallways and stairwells are generally the most structurally reinforced. Stay away from windows.
Where should mobile home residents go? Get to a nearby building. Mobile homes -- even the hallway or bathroom -- are not safe during tornadoes and high winds. In Minnesota, any recently built park must have a shelter nearby.
What if you're caught outdoors? Seek shelter in a nearby basement or sturdy building. If you can't walk quickly to shelter, get into a vehicle, buckle the seat belt and drive to the closest shelter. If debris is already flying, pull over and park.
Stay in the vehicle or get out? It's a judgment call whether to stay in the vehicle or seek shelter in a low-lying area. If you stay in the car, buckle the seat belt, put your head below the windows, and cover your head and hands with a blanket to avoid injury. If you choose to get out of the car and into a ditch lower than the level of the roadway, cover your head with your hands. If the ditch has a culvert that is relatively dry, get inside it. And don't seek shelter under a bridge, where winds can actually increase and make flying debris even more deadly.
Due to the unpredictable nature of tornado paths, do not try to drive away from a tornado. Seek shelter instead.