Tornadoes are considered to be the most erratic, most unpredictable and most violent of all atmospheric storms. Winds in the strongest of these storms can exceed 250 mph. By definition, a tornado is often described as a violently rotating column of air, in contact with the ground, either pendant from a cumuliform cloud or underneath a cumuliform cloud, and often (but not always) visible as a condensation funnel cloud. Significant damage can occur even when the condensation funnel does not reach the ground.
The most dangerous tornadoes develop from supercells — which are rotating thunderstorms with a well-defined radar circulation called a mesocyclone. Most severe thunderstorms and resulting tornadic events occur during the spring (March, April, May and June) and, at a lesser intensity, during the fall (September, October, and November); however, tornadoes can occur at any time of the year.
Before the storm…
- Purchase an indoor personal notification system. These systems will alert you to any hazardous conditions that may exist.
- Prepare your 72 Hour Kit. Make sure you have a battery-powered radio, flashlight, and plenty of spare batteries.
- Identify a room in your house that will keep you safe during a storm. The best safe room is a small, interior room on the lowest floor of your house, such as a closet or small bathroom. Stay away from windows, and get under a sturdy piece of furniture if possible.
Know the difference between watches and warnings…
- TORNADO WATCH: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.
- TORNADO WARNING: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.
- SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH: Severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
- SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
Develop a plan with your family on what to do during tornado warnings, and practice it by participating in family tornado drills.
During the storm…
- Monitor your indoor personal notification system and local media to stay informed about the severity of the storm.
- Stay away from windows.
- If a tornado warning is announced for your area, seek shelter immediately. Go to your safe room with your family and pets. Get under a sturdy piece of furniture if possible. Keep your flashlight and radio with you, and continue to listen to emergency weather reports.
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately for a safe shelter.
- Be aware of flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
- Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You should leave a mobile home, and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or storm shelter.