Tornado while backpacking...what to do?

10:08 a.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi all,

This weekend I SHOULD be going backpacking in the Shawnee National Forest. (very southern tip of Illinois). There has been lots of severe weather down there this week (tornados, hail, high winds) and that got me thinking.

What is the ideal course of action when you are miles from civilization and a tornado is heading your way?

1st thought- find a rock shelter if possible

2nd thought- tie yourself to a large/old/strong tree and hope for the best

3rd thought- find a low point, valley, creek bed and stay low!!!

what are your thoughts?

 

thank you

1:27 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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i dont think a strong tree would be a smart choice, and a creek bed might not be a very good choice either, most of the time in severe storm situations there is alot of rain involved which could make flash flooding an issue. But with that in mind i like to walk creeks and look for arrowheads, last year while walking a creek a sever storm came out of nowhere with dangerously close lightning, i really didnt know what to do, should i stay in the creek which is gonna be a lower spot but then water and electricity do not mix but all around the creeks are tall trees which are lightning magents also, so i found myself running as fast as i could through the woods for at least a mile until i reached the safety of my truck, very scary feeling the thunder was so loud and the lightning was so close. sorry to steal your thread but it kind of goes along with it. Im thinking i would look for a rock shelter or find some sort of ditch or a hole in the ground somewhere.

1:30 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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on a lighter note, shawnee national forest is awesome. Go to "bell smith springs" if you get a chance, its on the opposite side of the forest from garden of the gods area but there are good trails, good bouldering opportunities, one of the largest natural arches east of the mississippi river which you can climb and/or hike up on, and a few water falls as well. I also recommend Rim Rock trail which is very pretty and scenic as well.

1:54 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Say hello to the Munchkins for me!

2:17 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I've been out in a few tornados. To tell you the truth I dont know if one thing is better than the other.  I've stayed in the tent and held it up, and I've droped my tent before. I think dropping the tent and stand there with your rain gear is the best bet. Just go along for the ride and view.

4:32 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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A friend and her husband photographed the worlds highest (Guinness Record) tornado in the Sierra a few years ago.  Although it was above them at 14k', they did get significant large hail.  Not a lot of places to hide at 12k'.

You don't have a lot of options.  You won't be able to hold on to anything to keep you from being blown around and the most important thing is not to be in the way of any debris.  My best guess would be on the ground hopefully in a swale or depression or near a very large rock, and if you can get lower down the side of a valley without hurting yourself try that.  Keep your pack on. That will give your back some protection from being struck by things.

5:09 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I hear ya on the creekbed Dwoods. i thought about flooding as well.

the big large tree isn't a good idea due to the lightning factor right?

rock shelter would be best, but that may not be a viable option. staying low and near a large rock seems to be a good idea.

 

what about the 4 of us tieing ourselves together? harder to blow 800 pounds around than 200 right?

 

I figured keeping the pack on could help from debris and add some weight to me.

 

i appreciate all your thoughts! pray for decent weather for me haha

6:47 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Getting low and in a depression is pretty much all you can do. If a tornado hits a tree chances are the tree is going to fall. Creek bed has already been discussed. Not alot of good options in the woods. Truth is, not alot of good options anywhere unless you can get underground.

 

7:00 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Remember geting HIT by a tornado would be VERY rare indeed. In that case put your head between your knees and kiss your self by, by. But like I said before.... Keep look out. And love what you see. Be as wise as you can. And enjoy mother nature. You will clean up the mess and have a great story to tell the grandkids.

Remember that tornados will hit the high ground and sometimes skip over valleys. Camping in a lower area could help.

9:54 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I would go for the rock/boulder option.  As long as I could get lower than the rock I would feel sort of safe.  Relatively speaking. 

11:43 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Next to a rock in the bottom of a draw. That's where I'd be. The Shawnee is a beautiful, mature Oak-Hickory forest slowly being replaced by a Maple-Beech understory. The Oaks are old and decadent due to decades of fire suppression, and they were what fell when I was there during the 2009 derecho. The Maples have a good hold in most of the bottomlands, and are making good ground up north-facing slopes. So, I'd find the steepest-walled valley you can, and find a reasonable spot amongst the younger maple trees.

Then again, we're in the lowlands, so maybe a dense, mature stand of Autumn Olive would be a good place too? Just bury yourself down low, under the larger stems. Like a deer might...

12:49 a.m. on April 26, 2011 (EDT)
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I lived in Oklahoma for nine years as a kid and this is what was drilled into our heads.

The number one danger from a tornado is flying debris. It doesn't matter what size the object is, a tornado can pick it up and hurl it with incredible force. Small pebbles become bullets, hay becomes spears, cows and cars can be thrown hundreds of yards.

1. Listen for the storm's roar. If you hear a freight train, seek shelter immediately.

2. Find a low lying area (i.e. culvert, ditch, gully, or depression) away from large things that might be blown down on top of you. Crouch or lay down in it to minimize your chance of being hit by something. You may get wet but that's a small price for survival.

3. If indoors, find a small inside room or closet or in a cast iron bath tub.

Do not seek shelter in a stand of trees. They get splintered and provide too many sources of projectiles and falling limbs and trunks.

Pics of storm damage:

http://www.google.com/search?q=tornado+damage+in+forest+pictures&hl=en&rlz=1T4ACGW_enUS414US414&prmd=ivns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=jEW2TfnkMMz2gAeto9ht&ved=0CCwQsAQ&biw=1388&bih=937

 

http://www.weatherstock.com/storm-damage-gallery/tornado-damage-pictures.html

I like the LP and the fork in the telephone poles.

9:24 a.m. on April 26, 2011 (EDT)
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PRAY.

Yogi Robt

10:59 a.m. on April 26, 2011 (EDT)
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thanks pillow, snowgoose, mike and mayhem, you too robert ;)

i do appreciate. i just e-mailed the forest service to see if they knew if the any parts of the trail are underwater, or if any of the roads to the trailhead are flooded.

i hear that southern illinois has issued a state of disaster??? perfect time for a trip lol

12:10 p.m. on April 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Some of the trails are definately going to be wet, i would not travel down route 3 towards chester illinois to get there as the mississippi is going to be cresting 5' above flood stage on friday and that area is considered major flooding, im sure the ohio is high due to the mississippi being high, other than that you should be fine on roads, most of the creeks in that area will fall as fast as they rise due to the fact they are slick rock type and rocky bottoms, and it looks like tonight will be the last day of sever storms with terenchal rainfall, waterfalls should be stunning for your viewing though. You may not be able to go to cave in rock state park as its on the ohio and right on the river, hopefully the forest service will get back with you before you go, but i highly doubt it they are pretty strapped for workers and they never called me back last year when i had questions, i still feel youll be okay with the most of the trails, garden of the gods is elevated high above the forest, rim rock is both elevated and the stairs cut into the granite lead you down to more trails and cave shelters that are along a small stream, these lower trails may be wet but if rain does move out of area like they are saying should be accessible, the only one that may be inaccesible in my opinion would be Bell Smith Springs, they have a page on Facebook with alot of locals that are on there i suggest if you have a facebook friend them and ask some of the locals. Happy Trails

12:59 p.m. on April 26, 2011 (EDT)
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dwoods- you're awesome!

glad you think we'll be ok. i figured GOG's might be fine, but wasn't sure about the Lusk Creek Wilderness area.

i was thinking the same thing about the falls, and maybe we'll have more/more abundant water sources with some of the smaller creeks after all this rain!

how bad are the ticks right now?

5:58 p.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi all,

This weekend I SHOULD be going backpacking in the Shawnee National Forest. (very southern tip of Illinois). There has been lots of severe weather down there this week (tornados, hail, high winds) and that got me thinking.

What is the ideal course of action when you are miles from civilization and a tornado is heading your way?

1st thought- find a rock shelter if possible

2nd thought- tie yourself to a large/old/strong tree and hope for the best

3rd thought- find a low point, valley, creek bed and stay low!!!

what are your thoughts?

 

thank you

 Regarding points 1, 2, 3.

1. yes, but still need to secure yourself potentially

2. preferably one that has already fallen

3. similar to #1, diverse terrain is definitely helpful but not always a life saver.

5:56 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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The tragic tornado that just ripped through Alabama and Mississippi ... one could not do much to help oneself, in that circumstance.  Other than PRAY.

It was likely an F5.   The worst.

Yogi Robt

August 20, 2014
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