Be prepared for nature’s most violent storms

Tornadoes occur most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.

The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide.

Disaster Place Theater: Tornadoes

Tornado Safety Tips


  • Have a pre-designated safety spot.
  • Go to the lowest level possible in a structure.
  • Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
  • Avoid windows and glass.
  • In a basement stay under the center support beam, a stairwell or heavy piece of furniture for protection from falling debris. Stay out of corners; debris often collects in corners.
  • If you have no area below ground level, use a hallway closing doors off to outside rooms. A small interior room (bathroom or closet) away from outside walls and windows would be preferable to large rooms or rooms with outside walls.

Outside, in mobile homes, or in homes of modular construction:

Tornado Watches vs. Warnings

A TORNADO WATCH means that tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms. Find out what counties are in the watch area by listening to your NOAA Weather Radio or local radio and television stations.

A TORNADO WARNING means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take cover immediately.

Tornado Safety Tips During COVID-19

Don’t let the COVID-19 pandemic prevent you from seeking refuge from a tornado. Prepare now for tornadoes by identifying your best available shelter. If a public shelter is your only possible option, determine if your local shelter is open. It’s recommended that you follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 transmission prevention, including physical distancing, when seeking safety during severe weather. Visit the American Meteorological Society for more information on safe sheltering procedures.

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