Tornado Safety

Sponsored by:


Tip written by: Infraspection Institute

With the onset of warm weather, tornado season has arrived. In an average year, tornadoes in the US cause 80 fatalities and 1500 injuries. Knowing what to do before and during a tornado is crucial for survival.

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. The best defense against tornadoes is to be alert to weather conditions and be ready to seek shelter.

Before a tornado, be alert to changing weather conditions.

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to local newscasts for the latest information
  • Watch for approaching storms
  • Know the danger signs: Dark, often greenish sky; large hail; large, dark, low-lying or rotating clouds; loud roar, similar to a freight train

If you see an approaching tornado or are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately.

  • If you are in a structure, go to a pre-designated shelter area or the center of an interior room on the lowest building level. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.
  • If you are in a vehicle, 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.
  • If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Beware of flying debris and the potential for flooding.

For more information on tornadoes and tornado safety, visit the NOAA website.