Tornadoes are one of nature's most dangerous storms, in part because of the power of the devastating winds, but also because there is often little to no warning when a tornado will strike.
For many United States residents, tornado warnings and watches are a regular spring and summer occurrence, and reacting to these advisories is almost second nature. While there seem to be areas of the country more prone to tornadoes, they can develop anywhere, so it's important to be familiar with the preparations and procedures that will keep your family safe.
Tornado preparedness begins long before the warning ticker flashes across the bottom of your television screen. As severe weather rolls into your area, especially if you live in an area prone to tornadoes, tune in to current weather reports for your area via the radio, television or Internet. Weather officials will announce tornado watches and warnings as they arise and expire. Advisories are typically listed by county, so keep an ear out for your county and neighboring areas.
Keep an eye to the sky
Catching a weather forecast can keep you informed, but you can also be prepared by making your own observations. Frequently, there are apparent warning signs just before a tornado strikes. Being alert and recognizing the following warning signs can help you get your family to safety before a threat arises.
- Sky - Dark, almost greenish in color
- Weather conditions - In the right conditions, hail is a precursor to a tornado
- Clouds - large, low-lying, dark clouds, especially if rotating
- Sounds - If you hear a freight train-like roar, the tornado is directly upon you
If you see or hear any of these warning signs, be prepared to seek shelter.
The safest place to be during a tornado varies depending on your situation.
- Inside - If you are in your home or another sturdy building, move to the nearest storm shelter, the basement or if neither is available, to an interior room or hallway free of windows on the lowest floor possible.
- Mobile home - If you are in a mobile home, evacuate immediately and move to the nearest storm shelter or sturdy building.
- Outdoors - If you are outdoors, drive to the nearest sturdy shelter if possible. If no shelter is available, try to find the lowest possible ground to park your vehicle and stay inside with your seatbelt buckled and cover your head with your hands. Never try to outrun a tornado and avoid parking under a bridge or overpass.
Staying informed and knowing how to react when a tornado warning is issued is your best defense against a tornado. Protect your family and yourself by staying alert as inclement weather approaches.
To learn more about tornado preparedness and safety, visit the tornado page on Ready.gov. To contact family members or find aid after a tornado, visit the American Red Cross.