A tornado or severe thunderstorm watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of either tornadoes or severe thunderstorms. Many tornadoes originate inside severe thunderstorm cells.
When a watch is issued for your area be sure to pay close attention to the weather. Make sure that everyone in your family knows the correct actions to take if the weather worsens. If weather starts to worsen or if you see an approaching storm, immediately turn on your TV or radio to monitor events.
When issued for your area, a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning means that a tornado or thunderstorm has been reported or is indicated by weather radar. Warnings are issued for counties and/or communities and include the tornado's location, direction and speed. If the warning is for your area, you must take shelter immediately.
Learn the location of designated shelters at work, school, and other public buildings you frequent. Designate a tornado shelter in your own home. Be sure all family members know the location and when to seek shelter. Make sure to take a battery powered radio to your shelter location when a warning has been issued.
If You're Home During A Tornado
Most tornadoes strike in the late afternoon and evening hours. Because of these hours, you or your family may be at home in the event of a tornado warning.
If you are at home when a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning is given, immediately take shelter. Go to the basement and seek shelter under the stairs or sturdy furniture. If you do not have a basement, seek shelter in a small room at the lowest level, in the center or the building. Bathrooms and closets are good potential shelters. Avoid all rooms with windows.
Mobile homes are extremely vulnerable to the effects of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.
One third of all tornado deaths nationwide occur in mobile homes. Residents of mobile home parks should have a shelter in the park or an evacuation plan to a shelter location for residents. Find out what the tornado plan is in your park. If there is no time for this, abandon the mobile home and lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression with your hands covering your head.
If You're Away From Home During a Tornado
Here are some basic tornado safety rules that apply if you are threatened by a tornado when you are away from home.
- The best tornado shelter in any building is the lowest level.
- Look for designated shelters in buildings. Other good locations in buildings are smaller rooms, such as closets, restrooms or storerooms.
- Get underneath a sturdy piece of furniture.
- Cover your head and chest to protect yourself from flying debris.
- Seek shelter away from doors and windows.
- Large span roof areas like those in malls and gymnasiums are especially vulnerable to tornadoes.
- Don't run for your car. You are generally safer inside a building than in the open.
- If a tornado strikes while you're in a car, immediately stop the car and seek shelter in a depression, under a bridge, or in a culvert. Do not try to outrun the tornado.