A tornado is a rapidly spinning tube of air that extend from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. It causes massive destruction and brings intense and very dangerous winds. Visual signs of a tornado include a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, and an approaching cloud of debris. The sound is that of a loud roar like a freight train.
Where & When
can happen anywhere, any time of the year, and any time of day
most occur in the Southern & Northern Plains and the Gulf Coast, 70% of these occur from March to June, and most happen between 4 to 9 pm
spring to summer period is prime time for conditions that spawn tornadoes - but they can still occur outside of these peak times
transforms cars and other debris into deadly projectiles - most deaths come from flying or falling debris, typically killing 60 to 80 people per year and injuring 1,500 more
causes major damage to buildings, cars, property, and crops
uproots trees, loss of wildlife habitat, and spreads soil disease
Alerts & notifications: Sign up for alerts and listen to weather reports – meteorologists can predict when conditions are right for a tornado.
Understand the alert system
- Watch: tornadoes are possible in and near your area - be ready to act fast.
- Warning: there is danger - move to your safe room / safe location immediately.
Prepare for no warning: You may not always get a warning. Learn to recognize the signs of a tornado so you can act yourself and take shelter if you feel you are in danger.
Identify or Build Safe Shelter
Identify a safe location within your home or build a safe room for high-wind scenarios.
Identify an existing room
Do you have a small, interior, windowless room, or basement on the lowest level of a sturdy building? Underground is the very best.
If there is no basement, take shelter on the first floor and into either a small interior windowless room, or stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
Build a safe room
You can build a safe room aka storm shelter to ICC 500 standards. These rooms are built specifically to withstand high winds.
What zone do you live in? If you live in zones 3 & 4, you may want to consider building a safe room for both tornadoes and hurricane-force winds. This build is proven to be the best proactive action and has been known to save lives.
Emergency Supplies & Document Storage
Grab & Go Bags
If you can stock supplies in your safe room, do so. If that would be inconvenient, be sure to create a grab & go bag that you can take with you should you need to evacuate but also take with you on your way to the safe room. It will supply you and your family with food, water, flashlights, NOAA radio, and more. Remember that your pet needs one too.
Keep a copy of your important documents, account numbers, etc. in a grab & go binder. If your home gets damaged or worse yet, destroyed, this binder will aid you immensely in moving forward.
Make a Plan and Practice
Make a plan:Every family member needs to be in on this plan and understand where to go and what to do. The plan should include going to the safe room when a watch is issued and staying there until the all-clear is given.
Make assignments:Who gets which child? Who gets which pet? Who gets the grab & go bags and binder?
Practice:The key to safety is practice. Running a drill with your family is a great way to ensure everyone remembers what to do. These drills should involve acting out the assignments and moving quickly to a safe location. This practice will help cement the plan and help for times when watches are not issued, and time is of the essence.
Note:If you live in a manufactured, mobile, trailer, or RV home, practice going to a safe place and plan on doing so everytime a watch is issued.
When You're Inside
If a tornado warning occurs while you are in your home, follow the following steps:
- Remember the steps laid out in your tornado family plan and execute each one, grabbing children and pets first, and grab & go bags and binder if you have the time.
- Take your family to your safe location and stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. An exploding window and injure or kill.
- If things turn violent, cover your head and neck with your arms. If you can, put materials around or on top of you like furniture and blankets.
- Get information from your NOAA radio, local radio, or cell phone and stay put until you get the all clear.
When You're Outside
If a tornado warning occurs while you are driving or otherwise outside, follow the following steps:
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. A car or a mobile home provides almost no protection from tornadoes.
- If you can safely get to a sturdy building, do so immediately.
- If you cannot, use your arms to protect your head and neck.
- Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.
- Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
Assess Your Situation
Stay put:Stay where you are and keep listening to authorities via the alert system for updated information. Continue to shelter in place until the warning is over.
Moving about:When given the green light, look around for things that might fall or dangerous debris. Do not use matches or lighters inside. If you smell gas or see spills that could be flammable, leave immediately. Exit with extreme care and stay out.
If you are trapped:cover your mouth with a cloth or mask to avoid breathing in dust. Try to send a text message and bang on a pipe or wall. If you have your grab & go bag handy, use the whistle to get attention instead of shouting.
Once outside:Stay clear of fallen power lines or broken utility lines. Watch out for exposed nails and broken glass and do not enter any building until you are told it is safe.
Treat injuries:Provide first aid as needed to people you see who are injured. Do not attempt to move a person with a back or neck injury unless they are in immediate danger. Seek immediate medical assistance.
Dealing with Damage & Cleanup
Once you are cleared to go back inside your home, the work to rebuild begins. Be careful. Significant injury and even death have been known to happen from participation in cleanup activities.
- Get professional building/land inspections for damage.
- Wear thick-soled shoes, long pants, and work gloves. Use face coverings or masks if cleaning mold or other debris.
- If power is out, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns to reduce fire risk. Do not use gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, basement, garage, tent, or camper, or even outside near an open window.
- Be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning. You can't see it or smell it, but it can kill you fast. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak, get to fresh air right away...do not delay.
- Children should not take part in any cleanup efforts.