Preparing for a Tornado

Tornados are natureís most violent storms and must always be taken seriously.  Tornadoes can be very dangerous and sometimes even deadly.  They come from powerful thunderstorms and appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds.  Tornado winds can reach 300 miles per hour.  They cause damage when they touch down on the ground.  They can damage an area one mile wide and 50 miles long.  Every state is at some risk.  Tornadoes can form any time of the year, but the season generally runs from March to August.  The ability to predict tornadoes is limited.  Usually a community will have at least a few minutes warning.  The most important thing to do is TAKE SHELTER when a tornado is nearby.  It is imperative you understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

Tornado Watch -- Tornadoes are possible.  Stay tuned to the radio or television news.

Tornado Warning -- A tornado has been sighted.  Take shelter immediately!

What should you do to prepare for a tornado watch or warning?

  • Listen to a radio or watch television for weather updates.  If a tornado is coming you MUST seek shelter. An underground shelter is best, such as a basement or storm shelter.  If you donít have a basement, find an inside room or hallway or closet on the first floor AWAY FROM WINDOWS.
  • Keep a weather or transistor radio with fresh batteries within reach to monitor tornado updates.

  • Keep flashlights with fresh batteries or candles with matches available if the electricity should get cut off.


  • Keep an emergency kit. It is recommended by the Red Cross that you have enough items to last for three days in a waterproof container.  Items to include: 

    • a manual can opener,

    • pocket knife,

    • several blankets,

    • a spare set of house and car keys,

    • non-perishable food and water,

    • a first aid kit as well as any prescriptions,

    • important documents and emergency phone numbers.


  • Establish a designated room in the house where all family members can safely ride out a severe storm.  Typically an interior room on the lowest floor of a house or building away from windows.

  • Make sure everyone knows where to meet after a severe storm in case they become separated from the rest of the family.

  • Have occasional drills.

  • If you are at school during a tornado, listen and do what your teacher says.

  • If you are outside and cannot get inside, lie flat in a ditch or ravine.  Lie face down and cover your head with your hands.

  • If you are in a car, take shelter in a nearby building.

  • After a tornado, watch for broken glass and power lines that are downed.  If you see people who are injured, donít move them unless they are in immediate danger.  Call 911 for help right away!

  • Tornadoes can be very scary.  If you are scared, be sure to talk to someone about it.

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