What Should I do During a Tornado Warning?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 May 2020
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When a tornado warning is issued, it means that a government agency believes that there is a serious risk of tornadoes, due to the weather conditions, or that tornadoes have been spotted in the area. The most important thing to do during a tornado warning is to take cover in a secure place, and to bring a radio along to listen for an all clear, which will indicate that the warning has been lifted. However, it helps to prepare ahead for tornado warnings, especially in areas of the world where this type of weather is common.

The best place to shelter during a tornado is in a basement or storm cellar. If such a space is not available, staying indoors in the center of a building is a good solution. People in cars, trailer homes, tents, and other unstable structures should exit and find a solid building to shelter in. If no indoor shelter is available, the best thing to do is to lie flat in a low area such as a ditch, taking care to watch out for flooding. Sheltering under bridges and overpasses may be popular in the movies, but it can be dangerous in real life, as these structures can collapse, and falling debris can hit people trying to take shelter.

At home, it's a good idea to have a tornado plan and to practice for it at least once a year so that people and pets can get to a shelter in a few minutes if necessary. The designated safe space for sheltering should be stocked with food, water, blankets, batteries, flashlights, and entertainment. It's also a good idea to remind people that flying debris is a big risk in a tornado, and that protective coverings such as blankets, tarps, or heavy jackets should be used to cushion the body while approaching a shelter when a tornado warning is issued.

Tornadoes can also be accompanied by severe thunderstorms, which carry some additional hazards. Heavy weather can cause power outages or block roads, which can become an issue if someone is injured, and such storms can also cause flooding or fires. During a tornado warning, people should be aware of these hazards, and the fact that the risk of thunderstorms can persist after a tornado warning is canceled or lifted.

A weather agency may also issue a tornado watch, which means that conditions are ripe for the formation of tornadoes, so people should be careful. Weather agencies are not infallible, and a tornado can occur during a tornado watch without any warning. If a watch is issued, people should watch out for changes in the sky's color, swirling clouds, or disturbances in the landscape such as clouds of dust which can indicate the presence of a tornado.

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Post 8

These days, most TV stations in tornado-prone areas stream live online. You can listen to the progress of the storm through the station's app, usually. This is a big improvement over just having a radio, unless of course, you have stations in your area that play the live feed from the TV stations, if the weather coverage goes wall to wall.

Usually, people know bad weather is heading their way a day or two before the system arrives. Besides having food, water, batteries, etc., gas up the car (full tank), and charge up all cell phones. They may be your only means of communication. Even if you don't get any damage, if the power is out for a couple of days, you can't get gas, so you'll need it.

Post 7

@SkyWhisperer -- The reason you shelter in the bathroom is because a bathroom is usually at least partly on an inside wall, the more walls between you and the outside, the better. Also, if it does have a window, it's usually a small one, hence much less flying debris, and bathrooms are also reinforced with pipes and plumbing, which makes them a sturdier area of the house to begin with.

If you have a spacious bathroom, but also have a small closet, the closet is the place to go. Again, you want walls between you and the outside, and people sheltering above ground in small spaces tend to walk away more frequently.

Post 6

@SkyWhisperer - My wife was at the local Wal Mart when a tornado warning was issued. They locked down the whole building and told shoppers they couldn’t leave until the tornado warning alert was lifted, about 30 minutes later.

People were herded into different parts of the store which I guess were considered safe. I suppose they could while away the time with more shopping too.

Post 5

I live in that part of the country known as “tornado alley.” Fortunately our town has rarely taken a direct hit, but neighboring counties have sometimes been nearly wiped out.

I’m familiar with the sounds of sirens alerting us to severe tornado warning threats and have a weather radio at home. We don’t have a basement so we’ve been told that the bathroom is a good place to go for shelter. I don’t know the reasoning exactly but that’s what we’ve done.

We usually stock enough supplies, food and water, to keep us going for a few days if needed and keep a fresh stock of batteries for the radio. Beyond that, all you can do is wait and pray.

Post 1

it is very interesting.

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