When a Tornado Watch or Warning Is Issued

by Paul Konrardy

WHN TIP – Evacuate! Need to go? Ready.gov has tips on its Evacuation page. Map safe road routes inland to higher ground. You may need to drive 20 to 50+ miles inland to locate a safe place.

  1. Be safe, be smart.
  2. A WATCH means a tornado is possible in your area.
  3. A WARNING means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area.
  4. Download the free Red Cross Tornado app, along with the Emergency app so you can monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts. The free FEMA Alert App offers severe weather alerts, maps of disaster resources and other helpful information in case of natural disasters. Information is in English and Spanish and available for Apple, Android, and Blackberry mobile devices.
  5. Listen for sirens — remember you may not be able to hear them or they might not be sounded in time. Listen to local radio or TV stations.
  6. Watch for changing weather conditions. The sky may turn very dark (like night) or have a dark green tinge. Blowing debris or the sound of an approaching tornado may alert you; people who have lived through it say that an approaching tornado sounds like a freight train.
  7. Gather everyone in the house and review tornado readiness procedures.
  8. Check your Home Disaster Preparedness Kit and stock up and/or replace missing items.
    • This lists all items (food, water, emergency supplies, tools, clothing, sanitation items) you may need.
    • Place important items on the lowest safe level of your home.
  9. Stock up on canned goods and bottled water.
  10. Remember to have extra cash on hand — ATMs do not work when power lines are down.
  11. Fill your car’s gas tank, get an extra can of gas and keep both full in case you need to find temporary shelter after the tornado.
  12. Have flashlights and battery or crank-operated lanterns on hand for light if there’s a power outage. Avoid candles if possible. Have a fire extinguisher ready.
  13. Prepare the house:
    • Protect windows with shutters, paneling, and other materials.
    • Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors.
    • Turn off gas and water in your home.
    • Fill the bathtub and large containers with water for sanitary purposes.
    • Lower any outside antennae, masts or towers. Avoid power lines.
    • Bring in lawn furniture, toys, and garden tools and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
    • Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container on the lowest level of your home.

WHN TIP – Must-Brings: When you take cover, it’s important to bring something that comforts you, your pets and your children (a favorite stuffed animal or blankey).

During The Tornado

At Home

  1. Be safe, be smart.
  2. If you are in a home or any other small building, go to the basement. If the dwelling does not have a basement, go to the lowest level floor and stay in the smallest interior room, such as a closet or bathroom.
  3. Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
  4. Always crouch down and protect your head by covering it with your hands. Cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, heavy coats, etc.), to protect against falling debris.
  5. Stay away from windows, skylights or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail, causing damage or injury.
  6. Do not open a window. Once thought to minimize damage, opening a window can put you at greater risk. (Read more tornado myths here.)
  7. If you are in a mobile home, seek another form of shelter IMMEDIATELY. Go to the nearest designated tornado shelter.

Away From Home

  1. Be safe, be smart.
  2. If you are outside, immediately move to the basement of a nearby sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or low-lying area.
    • If no suitable or substantial structure is nearby, lie flat with your face down in the closest depression or ditch, protecting your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential of flooding.
  3. If you are in a school, hospital, factory, or shopping mall, go to interior rooms or halls on the lowest floor. Avoid glass-enclosed places and open areas such as warehouses and auditoriums.
  4. If you are in a high-rise building, get to the building’s tornado shelter. Stay away from exterior walls and windows. Do not use an elevator.
  5. Always crouch down and protect your head by covering it with your hands. Cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, heavy coats, etc.), to protect against falling or flying debris.
  6. If you are caught in your car, run to the nearest substantial structure.
    • Do not attempt to flee from a tornado by car.
    • Do not hide under an overpass. This is an extremely dangerous place to be during a tornado. Wind speeds actually increase under these overpasses and just about any tornado will blow you out. It also does not protect you from flying debris.
    • Avoid driving through a flooded area. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. Cars can be swept away or may break down in moving water.
    • If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and get to a sturdy building or higher ground.
  7. Remain indoors until the “all clear” notice is given by sirens (or lack of sirens), emergency management, or local law enforcement. Be aware that a curfew may be imposed immediately following a major tornado to avoid looting and to keep you safe.

WHN TIP – Standing Still: If a tornado seems to be standing still then it is either traveling away from you or heading right for you.

Photo Credit: PxHere

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