Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!
Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property.
April Showers Bring Thunderstorms and Tornandoes
How to Prepare for a Tornado
During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about tornado watches and warnings.
Know your community's warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found on the FEMA web site.
Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
Watch for tornado danger signs:
Dark, often greenish clouds – a phenomenon caused by hail
Wall cloud – an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
Cloud of debris
Funnel cloud – a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
What to Do During a Tornado
The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.
Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately, using your seat belt if driving.
Do not wait until you see the tornado.
If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.
Now you have the following options as a last resort:
Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.