Tornado Safety

Understanding Tornadoes. . .

TornadoAlthough tornadoes can occur at any time, the peak season for funnel clouds is during the months of March through August.  Although they can happen any place, at any time, tornadoes are most commonly sighted in the South, Southwest, and Midwest.

As for the tornadoes themselves, there are a number of characteristics which are important to remember about tornadoes. For example, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), tornadoes travel at an average speed of 30 miles per hour.  However, the range is broad, with tornadoes recording speeds of anywhere from 0 to 70 miles per hour.

It's also important to remember that while the NOAA has tracking studies which show that most tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, a tornado's direction can be very erratic and may change suddenly.

Making Plans . . .

TornadoRegardless of the time or season, it's always the right time to think about creating a tornado plan.

It doesn't take long, but it's well worth the investment.  The following illustrates a few things to consider when creating a tornado plan.  The most important thing to review with your family is the emergency procedures which should be followed if a tornado threatens your home.  Some of the most critical points to remember are the following:

  • Be prepared.  When the sky turns dark, keep abreast of changing weather conditions with television or radio reports.  Don't be caught by surprise.

  • A warning or a watch. Know the difference between a tornado warning and a tornado watch (check definitions on the back page) and take the precautions appropriate for each.

  • Seek shelter. Review the best spots in your home for your family to gather in the event of a storm.  Also, review the reasons why these spots are good so that your family will know what kind of shelter to look for if they are away from home and caught in a tornado.

  • Don't open windows.  Opening a window was once thought to be a way to level the atmospheric pressure during a tornado.  That is not the case. In fact, opening a window could increase the damage in your home.

  • Don't try to outrun the tornado in a car.  With tornadoes capable of reaching speeds of as much as 70 miles per hour, it is dangerous to try to outrun a tornado.

Finding Somewhere to Protect Yourself . . .

Although it's not possible to hide from a tornado, there are places which can offer you more protection from the swirling winds.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Stay away from windows wherever you are hiding.  Most tornado-related injuries and deaths result from flying debris.

  • Basements and storm shelters offer protection as long as you are away from windows.  Try to use heavy furniture as an additional shelter.

  • If there is no basement, find a small room in the center of the building such as a closet or a bathroom.

  • If you are in an open area, lie face down in a ditch, ravine or low area and cover your head to protect yourself from flying objects.

  • If you're in a car, STOP!  Get out and try to seek shelter in a strong and sturdy building. If there is no structure nearby, lie face down in a low area.

  • If you are in a building, move to the interior of the building on the lowest floor, preferably to a stairwell.

  • If you are in a mobile home, leave it and seek shelter in a nearby building.  If there is no shelter nearby, leave the trailer and take shelter nearby, leave the trailer and take cover on low protected ground.

  • Keep a radio and flashlight ready so that you'll know when it's safe to leave your temporary shelter.  The flashlight will be helpful if the skies are still dark and the tornado has left debris in its path.

Whatever Happens, Stay Calm . . .

TornadoWhatever the situation, it's important to ensure that you and your family remain calm, even in the face of a tornado.  If you have created a tornado plan and everyone in your family is familiar with it, you will be able to quickly do everything necessary to ensure your safety and theirs. It's a small investment to make in keeping your family safe.


National Weather Service - A Watch or A Warning ...

TornadoA Tornado Watch is used by the National Weather Service to alert you to the possibility of tornadoes.  Once a watch is issued, pay attention to news reports to stay alert to changing weather conditions.
A Tornado Warning is issued to let you know that tornadoes are occurring.  Once a warning is issued, pay close attention to weather developments and take shelter until the danger has passed.



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