Tornado Preparedness

In the United States, tornadoes annually cause an average of 70 fatalities and 1500 injuries. Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year and most often strike between 3:00 PM and 9:00 PM. In the northern states, the peak tornado season is June through August. 

Tornado Watch - A Watch is issued when weather conditions are such that a tornado is possible in and near the watch area. Watches are issued by the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center; the watch area is typically large and may cover numerous counties or states. 

Tornado Warning - A Warning is issued by a local forecast office when a tornado has been sighted or is indicated by weather radar. There is an imminent threat to life and property - take action immediately!  Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster, on radar, or by a trained spotter/law enforcement, who is watching the storm. 

A tornado can have whirling winds of up to 300 miles per hour and its path of destruction can be more than one mile wide and 50 miles long and can devastate a neighborhood in seconds. You may have little warning, so preparation and planning are key to reducing injuries. It is important to know what to do before, during, and after a tornado. 


Identify the safe places at home, work, and school. Locate local shelters and be aware of the tornado risk in your area.

  • Practice tornado drills at home and school.
  • Have a plan for how family members will contact one another during an emergency. Establish an out-of-area contact (such as a relative or family friend) who can coordinate family members' locations and information should you become separated. Make sure children learn the phone numbers and addresses and be sure they know the emergency plans. 
  • Prepare a family disaster supplies kit; families with children should create a personal pack for each child. 
  • Watch for danger signs which include: dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud that may be rotating; and a loud roar similar to a freight train.


During a Tornado Watch

  • Remain inside, away from windows and doors. 
  • Listen to the radio or TV. Keep a battery-operated radio or a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio.
  • Make sure your family disaster supplies kit is readily accessible. 
  • Be alert during a thunderstorm watch. Severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes; being prepared will give you more time should the weather turn severe.

 During a Tornado Warning

  • Listen to the radio or TV for weather updates and instructions from local officials. 
  • If you get caught in a tornado, take shelter immediately. 
  • If you are in a building, go to the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level - put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Stay away from windows, corners, doors, and outside walls; be aware of flying debris. Get under a heavy object, such as a table and use your arms to protect your head and neck - layers of clothes, pillows, or even a mattress can be pulled over you to protect you from flying debris. Do NOT open windows.
  • If you are in a vehicle, trailer, or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a nearby sturdy building or storm shelter. 
  • If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your arms. Be aware of the potential for flooding. Do NOT get under an overpass or a bridge - you are safer in a low, flat location. 
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle in an urban or congested area - leave the vehicle immediately for safer shelter. 


  • Continue to listen to the news and weather updates.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, broken glass, and other storm debris. 
  • Be aware of the possibility of broken gas lines and chemical spills; if you smell gas or chemical fumes, immediately evacuate the area and contact authorities. 
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only after authorities have issued an all-clear signal. 
  • Help injured or trapped people.
  • Check on others who may need assistance such as older adults, children, and people with disabilities.