A tornado is a violent windstorm characterized by a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground, with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Although the majority of tornadoes in the U.S. occur in the Midwest, one of these cyclones can arise nearly anywhere in the country.
Because predicting specific tornadoes can be difficult, it’s important that everyone understand their risk for a tornado, including what to do before, during and after a storm:
- Learn the warning signs and alert signals of your community.
- Understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch means that tornadoes may develop, while a warning means that a tornado has been sighted and you should seek shelter immediately.
- Prepare a survival kit.
- Conduct drills with your family. Designate an area of your home as a shelter and practice what you would do should a tornado occur.
- Move cars and other outdoor objects inside the garage.
- Seek shelter away from windows in the center of the room. Basements and storm cellars are the best havens, but if there is no basement, take cover in a bathroom, closet, or under a sturdy piece of furniture.
At work or school:
- Go to the basement or an inside hallway at the lowest level. Keep away from large, open areas such as auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums. Lie low and use your arms to protect the head and neck.
In a car:
- Do not try to outrun the tornado. Stop the car, get out, and if there is no nearby facility in which to take shelter, lie in a low area such as a ditch.
- Stay in your shelter until the storm is over.
- Listen to the radio or television for the latest storm information.
- Check for gas leaks or electrical system damage.
- Watch for downed power lines when going outside.