Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Prep

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:

  1. Whirling or rotating dust and debris on the ground. Tornadoes don’t always have a visible funnel.
  2. Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
  3. 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.
  4. Loud persistent rumble that doesn’t go away like thunder.
  5. 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.
  6. Large hail.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 

In Your Home

  1. 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.
  2. Avoid windows!
  3. 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.
  4. Especially protect your head with padding or your arms.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

  1. 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.
  2. The time to find shelter is before the crisis. Identify your shelter now.

In Your Vehicle

  1. Don’t try to outrun a tornado.
  2. Don’t stay in your vehicle.
  3. Don’t shelter under your vehicle.
  4. Find a ditch, ravine, bridge, building, or culvert.
  5. Avoid areas with trees.
  6. Protect your head.

Long-Span and Large Public Buildings

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Find a door frame, get under the theater seats, under a counter — anything that will offer some protection.
  4. Don’t get in an elevator.
  5. Stair wells are a good option, but get to the lowest level available.
  6. Underground parking garages offer good protection, especially near large support columns.
  1. Get your vehicles under cover — a garage or carport.
  2. Secure loose objects and equipment in the yard to reduce flying debris.
  3. Get your animals to shelter.
  4. Close your shutters, if you have them.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top