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Safety & Prevention

What is a Tornado?

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes have rotating winds of 250 miles per hour or more. They are capable of causing extreme destruction, including uprooting trees and well made structures, and turning normally harmless objects in deadly missiles. Most tornadoes are just a few dozen yards wide and only briefly touch down.

Why talk about Tornadoes?

Tornadoes have been reported in every state, and though they generally occur during spring and summer, they can happen any time of the day or night, they are most likely to occur between 3:00 and 9:00 p.m.

There are no areas immune to tornadoes; they have been reported in mountains and valleys, over deserts and swamps, from the Gulf Coast into Canada, in Hawaii and even Alaska.

Regardless of the location or time of year, if conditions are right, a tornado can happen.

What can I do to prepare for a Tornado? 

In addition to completing the 4 Steps to Safety, do the following:

  • Use a NOAA Weather Radio with a tone-alert feature, or a portable, battery-powered radio (or television) for updated emergency information of watches and warnings issued in your area.
  • If planning a trip or extended period of time outdoors, listen to the latest forecasts and take necessary action if threatening weather is possible.

Watch for tornado danger signs:

Dark, often greenish sky a phenomenon caused by hail indicating a tornado may develop. Wall cloud, an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm. Large hail. Tornadoes are spawned from powerful thunderstorms and the most powerful thunderstorms produce large hail. Cloud of debris, funnel cloud, roaring noise. Get training  take a first aid class from your local Red Cross chapter.

What to do during a Tornado Watch

Listen continuously to a NOAA Weather Radio, or a portable battery-powered radio (or television) for updated emergency information. Everyone in a WATCH area should be ready torespond and act quickly. Be alert to changing weather conditions.

What to do during a Tornado Warning

  • Listen continuously to a NOAA Weather Radio, or a portable battery-powered radio (or television) for updated emergency information.
  • If you are inside, go to your safe place to protect
    yourself from glass and other flying debris. Stay away from windows.
  • If you’re outside in a car or in a mobile home, go immediately to the basement of a nearby sturdy building. If there is no building nearby, lie flat in a low spot.
  • Use your arms and hands to protect your head.
  • Avoid places with wide-span roofs, such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways, or shopping malls.

What to do after a Tornado

  • Continue listening to local radio or television stations
    or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
  • Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance.
  • Avoid loose or dangling power lines and report them to the power company, police or fire department.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings.
  • Use the telephone for emergency calls only.


Last Updated
Family Readiness Kit: Preparing to Handle Disasters, 2nd Edition
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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