In the wake of the severe storm that tore through the area Monday night and Tuesday, many New Yorkers are wondering: What should we do if we come across a tornado, or if we see one and need to evacuate?
New York City requires that residents seek shelter in a sturdy structure when they see a tornado. If a severe storm hits your neighborhood, you can also call 311 (there’s no fee for these calls). If you see a tornado or live close to the city, it is not too late to evacuate. You can call 911 at any time if you need help.
There are, however, no specific laws in place that require a building to be constructed using certain designs, such as reinforced steel. There is a voluntary code that high-rises built or renovated within two years of the Great Storm of 1973 are required to be equipped with dewatering pumps. Most buildings constructed after 1973 are also required to have gap-filled ceilings and plenty of escape routes. If structures are deemed uninhabitable, FEMA and the state provide aid. Most buildings were constructed in a way that withstands natural disasters. “The city of New York has an aggressive building code that has been tested in numerous studies to know that building construction codes will withstand storms,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the Great Storm of 1973. “But our shelter crisis was worse then than it is now, and we did not have the right type of shelters that we do today.”
De Blasio laid out in a letter to New Yorkers at the time a preliminary list of recommendations that he and his team were considering.
In some cases, storms can be more dangerous than tornadoes, as National Weather Service officials say. Severe thunderstorms have the potential to pack additional tornadoes along with the heat. Those storms are about twice as likely to kill people, who would experience injuries.
On top of tornadoes, flash floods and hail also take an unusually heavy toll of lives and property. Because the lives of others often get in the way, there are also laws that mandate people not leave children alone in a car during such a severe weather event. Also: when entering a vehicle, travelers are advised to buckle up.
And if you see lightning, you’re also told to seek shelter under a sturdy shelter or indoor structure.
Once a severe weather event is over, residents are advised to clear a path for emergency services and start checking on those who are most vulnerable.