Flying cars and covered roofs: how to protect my property from tornadoes

First it hit viersen in north rhine-westphalia, then gieben in hesse. Tornadoes are not only in america – in germany, too, there is a growing fear of the dangerous air vortex that rips the roofs off houses, lifts cars into the air and sends people into a panic. Especially in times when the weather warnings of the german weather service pile up, the question arises: if upper franconia is hit by a tornado, how do I behave correctly and how do I protect my house??

Can tornadoes be predicted?

"It's meteorologically impossible over long periods of time because tornadoes are very small-scale and short-lived.", explains andreas friedrich, tornado officer of the german meteorological service (DWD). "We can't detect tornadoes with weather radar or satellites." However, a risk potential for up to 36 hours could be identified in advance. However, this only means: there is an increased tendency for tornadoes to occur in a region, and then these are roughly areas of entire federal states or parts of flat states.

More precise forecasts for circles or individual locations are only possible if an observer informs the meteorologists in good time that a tornado or a precursor, the funnel clouds, have already been seen, explains meteorologist friedrich. This means then, already within a few minutes another tornado could occur.

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What is the most likely damage to a house in the event of a tornado??

Windows are broken and roofs covered. Once there is damage to the roof, this storm naturally has a completely different attack surface. "That is, it suddenly reaches under the roof and lifts it off like a sail", says prof. Norbert gebbeken, president of the bavarian chamber of engineers-civil engineering. "You also have to reckon with vehicles flying around up to a height of twelve meters. If a car flies into a wall, it can't withstand it."

Can I protect my house from a tornado??

The lowest tornado wind scale starts at 117 km/h, in germany tornadoes with over 300 km/h have already been registered. "We can hardly protect our buildings from such attacks, such wind loads", explains prof. Gebbeken, who teaches structural engineering at the university of the german armed forces in munich. "That means you had to invest so much that you have to ask yourself whether we can still demand it." He recommends that homeowners and builders take "good precautions".

However, residents of regions where extreme storms are more frequent should take out elementary damage insurance "so that at least the material costs are reimbursed". According to the german insurance association, this insurance is offered as an additional component of homeowners' and householders' insurance. After storms, it pays for repairs, renovations and, if necessary, the demolition and rebuilding of an equivalent house and the costs of a transitional apartment.

The meteorologist friedrich advises to regularly check that loose parts on the building and loose roof tiles are fixed. Movable parts should be taken to the cellar as a precaution during storm announcements. But even he gives buildings little chance in the event of a strong tornado: "above a certain strength, you are no longer able to protect your house." He adds: "if there is a specific tornado warning, you should no longer worry about your house, but about your life."

Can I make a new building safer, for example with a flat roof??

According to prof. Gebbeken says that the flatter a roof is, the more it is protected in comparison. However, flat roofs are not possible everywhere – due to design regulations of the authorities. The expert emphasizes, however, with regard to the probability of becoming a victim of a localized tornado: "that the building code should be changed, that seems to be too strict a regulation in the opinion of the experts.

Are certain regions of germany more affected by tornadoes?

Germany as a whole is too small a region to be able to define individual danger zones for hurricanes, as there are, for example, for wind, snowfall and earthquakes, explains prof. Gebbeken. For classic storms, however, it can be said that they tend to be stronger in the north and at high altitudes.

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Are there more tornadoes than in the past??

Between 20 and 60 events are recorded by the german weather service each year, depending on the weather conditions. "The number of observed traps has increased significantly compared to the 80s, 90s of the last century", says andreas friedrich of the german weather service. But this is not due to meteorological changes.
"At that time, far fewer traps were detected." Today there were storm chasers driving around and people like me analyzing all the traps and entering them into databases", contribute to more statistical foundations. Not least, smartphones are contributing to this: many people are now filming and photographing weather phenomena. This makes the work of meteorologists easier.

"This has led to a decrease in the number of cases and an increase in the number of registered cases", says friedrich. However, most tornadoes are so small and weak that they do not leave any serious damage – they are still not detected.

But even more than their own car or house, those affected should above all keep one thing safe: themselves. But what is the right thing to do in a tornado??
First tip: whirlwinds cover roofs. Therefore, in the event of a tornado, homeowners should avoid rooms directly under the roof framing. It's also better to stay away from windows and doors, because flying objects can break through them. The german weather service even advises to visit cellar rooms.

Take shelter in stone houses – lie flat on the ground

The basic rule is: seek shelter in buildings, preferably in solid stone houses. A car is not a safe place, because a tornado can easily lift it into the air. If you are surprised by a tornado in the wild, you can still try to avoid it. A tornado is usually no wider than 100 meters, according to the german weather service, a distance of one kilometer is sufficient.

In an emergency, lie flat on the ground. Weaker tornadoes may then pass over you. Moreover, in this body position, the risk of being hit by flying objects is the lowest.

Otherwise, the usual preparation applies to announcements of storms and thunderstorms: bring loose objects at the house and in the garden and the car to safety and prepare for a power outage with charged cell phone and flashlights, explains the federal office for population protection and disaster relief.

Severe weather ticker: weather service warns of strong thunderstorms in franconia



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