Severe storms are racing across the heartland at this writing, so a quick prep note is in order.
First, Know the Signs of a Tornado
If you’re under a tornado watch, be especially alert for the presence of a tornado. You can’t always see a tornado because it’s night or because it is concealed by precipitation or dust. Besides the obviously visible tornado, look and listen for the following warning signs of a tornado:
- Whirling or rotating dust and debris on the ground. Tornadoes don’t always have a visible funnel.
- Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
- Sudden fall of mud, tree branches, or other debris. A tornado’s strong winds can pick up large debris and fling it far away. Large falling debris may indicate a nearby tornado.
- Loud persistent rumble that doesn’t go away like thunder.
- Blue or blue-green flashes at ground level, as opposed to silvery lightning flashes. These may indicate power lines and transformers being damaged by strong winds, possibly a tornado.
- Large hail.
- Sudden, intense, sustained wind shift. Thunderstorms without tornadoes often feature shifting winds, but a sudden intense wind in a sustained direction may indicate a tornado.
- Sudden heavy rain followed by dead calm. A tornado’s rotational winds can eject massive amounts of water in a specific direction, much like a fire hose. If you have a sudden, heavy, brief rainfall, it may indicate a nearby tornado.
Family Prep for Tornadoes
In Your Home
- Rehearse a plan to get your family to a dedicated or makeshift storm shelter, as the case may be. If you don’t have a dedicated storm shelter, look for the most structurally sound areas in your home — a basement is ideal, otherwise a small room with no exterior walls on the lowest floor.
- Avoid windows!
- Protect yourself from flying objects and debris by staying away from windows and/or erecting padding around yourself and your family — a mattress, blankets, large pillows, whatever you can grab.
- Especially protect your head with padding or your arms.
- Watch for weather alerts. A tornado WATCH is when conditions are favorable for the formation of a tornado. A tornado WARNING is issued when a tornado has been actually observed by eye or by radar.
- If a warning has been issued in your area, or if you see a tornado coming, get to your shelter immediately.
In a Mobile Home
- If you are in a mobile home, DON’T STAY IN IT. Find shelter in a nearby building. If none is available, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine, or culvert.
- The time to find shelter is before the crisis. Identify your shelter now.
In Your Vehicle
- Don’t try to outrun a tornado.
- Don’t stay in your vehicle.
- Don’t shelter under your vehicle.
- Find a ditch, ravine, bridge, building, or culvert.
- Avoid areas with trees.
- Protect your head.
Long-Span and Large Public Buildings
- Long-span buildings like shopping malls and movie theaters have a great risk of collapsing the roof. Find a better shelter, if you have time.
- If the tornado is upon you, get away from windows, get to the lowest floor, and seek a place that will protect you from flying or falling debris.
- Find a door frame, get under the theater seats, under a counter — anything that will offer some protection.
- Don’t get in an elevator.
- Stair wells are a good option, but get to the lowest level available.
- Underground parking garages offer good protection, especially near large support columns.
Property Prep for Tornadoes
- Get your vehicles under cover — a garage or carport.
- Secure loose objects and equipment in the yard to reduce flying debris.
- Get your animals to shelter.
- Close your shutters, if you have them.