Survive Severe Weather-Tornado Safety Tips and Information

Edited by Robbi, Anonymous, Eng, Lynn

Tornado Photo Courtesy of NOAA

Regardless of your location, it is imperative that you learn how to survive a tornado. Tornadoes can take place at any time, in any month, in any state.


What is a Tornado?

A tornado is one of the most violent storms produced by nature. In most instances, these potentially devastating systems are produced from thunderstorms that are considered to be extremely powerful. You can see by the tornado pictures that these tornadoes are usually taking place in a storm, but do not have to be.

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A tornado is a funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground below, and rotates at exceptionally high speeds. These storm systems have the potential to produce wind speeds of over 300 mph.

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Tornadoes are classified by how fast they rotate. They are classed using a scale called the Fujita Scale. F1,F2,F3,F4,and F5 are the classifications of tornado, with the F5 tornado being the most dangerous and the most damaging.

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The paths that experience damage from these storms may be over a mile in width, and over fifty miles in length. Tornadoes have the potential to develop so rapidly, that advance warning is often not possible. It is essential to learn a few tornado safety tips to ensure that you and your loved ones are as safe as possible in the event that one of these devastating storms develop.

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If you live or have considered living in the Midwest or in some portions of the Middle Atlantic States, tornado safety is top priority. Even in areas such as Florida, the Philippines, and other tropical climates, tornadoes can take place.

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Tornadoes can occur in any part of the United States, but they are more common in the area between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains. Tornadoes occur with more frequency in certain states in the United States.

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Severe thunderstorm over Cairo Nebraska

This is known as Tornado Alley. It contains about nine states, but they do take place with a serious concentration in the core states of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Oklahoma.

Preparation is the first key to tornado safety and survival. In areas where tornadoes are a common threat, early warning systems such as sirens are present and periodically tested so residents know what to listen for during bad weather.

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Weather Spotters, weather test days and weather watches are very common. Many people are hurt because they ignore those warnings and do not take cover or watch the weather as they are meant to do in a weather watch or warning. Every year tornado deaths take place because people did not listen for warnings or did not know what to do when they heard the siren sound.

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Well before the time that you need to use your tornado safety skills, long before you hear a tornado warning, you should already have a plan in place that will help you to deal with it if the need arises.

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Tornado Safety Tips

Tornado Photo Courtesy of Noaa
  1. 1
    The first step to tornado safety is ensuring that you learn as much as you possibly can about these severe storm systems.
    Knowledge is both power and the key to success in ensuring your safety and the safety of your loved ones should a funnel cloud form in or around the region in which you reside.
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  2. 2
    It is important that you understand the meteorological terminology used to describe a tornado and the level of danger that it poses to you.
    1. A "Tornado Watch" informs you that conditions are favorable for a tornado to happen and that you should be alert for major escalating storm cells in your area.
    2. A "Tornado Warning" informs you that a tornado or the rotation associated with this type of storm cell has either been sighted by an individual, or on a radar that displays weather conditions in your area.
    3. Should a tornado watch be issued, you should start reviewing your family plan with those in your home. If a tornado warning is issued, shelter should be taken immediately.
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  3. 3
    You should have a plan for where to go, how to get there and an agreed upon meeting place afterwards if family members get separated.
    This plan should be based on the type of home that you have because you must know the safest place within the home to take shelter should this type of storm develop. You should make sure that you have practice drills at least once to twice a year. If you live in an area that is prone to tornadoes and have young children in the home, you should have a practice drill more frequently in order to keep the necessary steps fresh in the minds of your child or children.
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  4. 4
    Stock and prepare your safety area with candles, a battery powered radio, well charged cellphones and make sure that you have drinkable water and even a few non-perishable food supplies.
    For many people in the south, tornado shelters are as common as a little rain storm in the summer time.
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  5. 5
    Your tornado shelter should be water tight, easily accessed and have a clear entry point.
    In other words, do not use this area as a secondary storage facility.
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  6. 6
    NOAA alert systems are common in many households along the tornado corridor.
    Families enjoy the security of knowing their weather alerts and all clear notifications are coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of these devices are equipped with an alarm that will wake you in case of an emergency in the middle of the night.
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  7. 7
    Stay calm, if you have spotted a tornado or heard an alert it is very important to stay calm and execute your safety and survival plan.
    Panic causes mistakes and can endanger you and your entire family.
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  8. 8
    Once alerted to a potential tornado in your area, go to your pre-determined safety area.
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  9. 9
    When you hear a tornado warning or if a tornado is imminent, immediately shut off the gas to your home if you have time to do so.
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  10. 10
    If you do not have a tornado shelter, you should go to the innermost room of your home and stay as far from Windows as possible.
    In many cases, an interior bathroom will provide the best protection because of the reduced size and presence of more supporting walls.
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  11. 11
    It is an old wives tale that you should open your Windows.
    Keep the Windows closed and stay well away from any areas of glass.
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  12. 12
    If you must stay in your home, it is important to remember the tornado safety drills from elementary school.
    Get down on your knees, facing a sturdy wall, face down with your hands cupped on either side of the back of your neck. This offers some protection from flying debris.
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  13. 13
    Pillows couch cushions and even mattresses can be a lifesaver in a tornado.
    The number one danger from tornadoes is flying debris, and these cushions can help save you from breaking glass, flying wood and other debris that is ripped apart and tossed by high winds.
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  14. 14
    You should purchase a NOAA weather radio and keep it on at all times in the home.
    You should ensure that it is set to display an alarm when watches and warnings are issued in your area. This is, by far, the quickest way to receive the latest, up-to-date information about potentially disastrous weather conditions in your region.
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  15. 15
    According to meteorologists, the number one threat in a tornado is debris that is in the air because of the winds associated with the storm.
    As a result of this fact, the area that you designate as your tornado shelter spot should include items that will protect you and your family from flying debris. Examples of these items include mattresses, blankets, pillows, and other types of protective coverings and accessories.
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  16. 16
    If you visit certain stores and buildings frequently, it is a good idea to determine the safest location to go within that structure should a tornado develop.
    The location should be away from Windows and doors, and in an area that will offer you optimal protection from the winds and flying debris that a tornado produces.
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  17. 17
    If you are driving and encounter a tornado, all the rules change!
    Your first instinct will be to try to outrun or outmaneuver a tornado, DO NOT! Your car cannot outrun a tornado and you are just as likely to drive into the path as away. The first thing to do is stop and find a low area of ground, at the bottom of a hill preferably. Lie down, cover your head and wait for the tornado to pass.
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  18. 18
    A mobile home is the absolute worst place to be in a tornado, if you live in a trailer and the warnings have sounded seek shelter elsewhere!
    Some communities will open up sturdy buildings or pre-made tornado shelters to residents of mobile home parks. Check with your local authorities to determine if this is available where you live.
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What are the First Signs That You Might See of a Tornado?

In order to learn how to survive a tornado, it is essential that you first know the signs of a tornado. Often, even the NOAA weather radio is unable to provide a warning in enough time to warn individuals within a certain region that a tornado is about to form, or has formed. The following outlines the most common signs that this type of storm cell is about to develop:

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  • You will often see a persistent and a relatively strong amount of rotation within the clouds.
  • You may see that dust and other types of debris are rotating near the ground.
  • In many instances, hail or an extremely heavy downpour of rain may occur, followed by an unusual quiet or calm spell.
  • In some instances, the wind may intensify or shift, unexpectedly, immediately before the development of a tornado.
  • The next sign of a tornado is a constant rumble or loud noise that does not go away quickly, like thunder does.
  • If it is at night when a tornado develops, you may see many flashes of white occurring near the ground. This often indicates that a tornado has developed and is damaging electric lines.
  • The sky will often become extremely dark before the development of a tornado. In many instances, it may appear to be green or green-tinted in color such as the photo below.
Robbi Drake lightning.jpg

Double lightning strike in a beginning wall cloud-Robbi Drake

Safety Tips for After the Tornado Has Passed

  • After a tornado has passed, safety is still very important. Even when you hear an all clear, you'll want to take great care.
  • Never go wandering around your neighborhood immediately after a damaging storm. You never know how many power lines are down and whether they are still live.
  • Trees which are twisted and downed can snap back and cause serious injury or death. Stay well clear of a tornado fall area and do not try to cut the trees without assistance
  • Also remember never to strike a match or lighter in your home if it has sustained damage, as you cannot be sure there are no gas leaks.

To Sum it All Up

Photo of Tornado Courtesy of NSSL/NOAA

Being in a tornado is the most harrowing experience many people will ever face, but if you are prepared and calm, you can survive. Early preparation and attention to warning systems can make all the difference to your personal safety

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Tornado Photos Courtesy of NOAA/NSSL-Public Domain


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Recent edits by: Eng, Anonymous, Robbi

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