What to do, where to go in a tornado

Do you know what to do in a tornado?

Tornadoes are nothing to mess around with.

With strong wind gusts up to 300 mph, tornadoes can quickly manifest from severe thunderstorms to deadly funnel clouds. If you find yourself in a tornado watch- or warning-issued area, here's what to do and where to go.

Watch or warning: What's the difference?

Tornado Watch-
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.

Tornado Warning-
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately. 


What to do before a tornado :

  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Listen to the National Weather Service radio or to commercial radio or TV newscasts for the latest information.
  • Look for approaching storms
  • Look for the following danger signs:
  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

What to do if you're in a tornado:

If you are in—

  • A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)-

-->Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

  • A vehicle, trailer, or mobile home-

-->Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

  • The outside with no shelter-

-->Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.

-->Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

-->Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.

-->Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries

Tornado facts from FEMA:

  • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
  • The average tornado moves southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
  • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
  • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
  • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
  • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
  • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
  • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3-9 p.m., but can occur at any time.

Information courtesy of FEMA at http://www.fema.gov/hazard/tornado/index.shtm