Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.
Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
The following are facts about tornadoes:
Know Your Tornado Terms
Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
What to do Before a Tornado
Be alert to changing weather conditions.
If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.
What to Do During a Tornado
If you are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately!
|If you are in:||Then:|
|A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)||Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.|
|A vehicle, trailer, or mobile home||Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.|
|The outside with no shelter||
Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Be aware of the potential for flooding.
Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.