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As Christmas Day neared its end in 2019, Californians in parts of Santa Barbara and Orange County received an unexpected tornado warning due to a risk caused by heavy rain, snow and winds, resulting in a winter storm.

Are you prepared for a possible tornado or other natural disaster? Do you have adequate insurance, current infrastructure and preparedness?

Most California homes were built for earthquakes, not tornadoes. Two storms developed during this time, with one in Southern California that flooded the 5 Freeway in the Grapevine, the Angeles Crest Highway, the 15 Freeway in the Cajon Pass and other freeways across Los Angeles County. A second storm, arriving from the Gulf of Alaska, dropped more rain and snow across Southern California. So far (at press time), Los Angeles County has received 1.5-2.5 inches of rain, with some regions reaching three inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

In Northern California, there was a winter storm warning for both San Diego and Santa Barbara Counties as heavy snow made for dangerous travel by car. Up to 14 inches of snow was expected to fall in Santa Barbara County mountain areas, and up to eight inches of snow was expected in Julian and Pine Valley.

Fortunately, both tornado warnings expired shortly after with no reports of damage, but the incident has hopefully increased awareness among California residents.

Tornadoes are not commonly associated with the state of California, but they are more common than you might think. According to the National Weather Service data from an almost 20-year period between 1991 and 2010, California averaged 11 tornadoes per year, while Kansas averaged 96 and Oklahoma averaged 62. Northern California has observed 101 tornadoes since 1950.

As weather across the world becomes more unpredictable with climate change, it’s important for residents in California (and other states) to learn how to protect themselves and their homes in the event of a tornado. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Ready.gov has crucial information to begin your education.

What should you do when another tornado warning occurs? DHS recommends that you immediately find safe shelter in a sturdy building, safe room, basement, storm cellar or small interior room on the lowest level of a building. Make sure to stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.

Below are some steps you can take to prepare for tornadoes in the future.

Tornado Preparation

  • Know the signs: rotating, funnel-shaped cloud; approaching cloud of debris; or a loud roar.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. Also check out the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.
  • Pay attention to weather reports for meteorologists’ predictions.
  • Identify a safe shelter near you, such as a safe room built using FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards. Consider building your own safe room that meets these criteria.

For more information on being proactive in case of a tornado or other natural disaster, visit Ready.gov.

Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, Entrepreneur.com named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit www.nawrb.com.

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