The summer months are considered “tornado season” for much of the United States, but the states that fall in the “Tornado Alley” are especially vigilant during these months. even if you don’t live in Tornado Alley, “tornadoes have been reported in all 50 states” according to the National Weather Service. Whether or not you live in a Tornado Alley state, these tornado safety tips and knowing the difference between a tornado watch and warning can help keep you and your family safe this tornado season.
So what is the difference between a watch and warning? The National Weather Service classifies a Tornado Watch as a time when conditions are right for a tornado to form. During a watch you should stay aware of the current weather conditions and be ready for action if a tornado is spotted. A Tornado Warning means that a tornado has been spotted or will soon make landfall in the area and people in that area need to take action to protect themselves from the storm.
If you find yourself under a Tornado Watch it might be a good idea to gather some items to make an emergency tornado kit. Items to gather for your kit include bottled water, canned foods, battery powered flashlight and radio, and a first aid kit and necessary prescription medications. follow the link above for a full list of items to add to your emergency kit , and remember, you don’t have to wait for a tornado watch to put your kit together!
If the tornado watch turns into a tornado warning it is time to take action. The National Weather Service has a few guidelines for waiting out a tornado under various available shelter circumstances:
- If you are in a house go to the basement or a central room away from windows, be sure to gather everyone in your house to that room, including pets if time allows.
- If you are outside, find a sturdy building immediately as “sheds and storage facilities are not safe. Neither is a mobile home or tent.”
- If you are in a car or mobile home drive to the nearest shelter as vehicles can easily be picked up in a tornado. If no shelter is nearby then NWS suggests that you can “either get down in your car and cover your head, or abandon your car and seek shelter in a low lying area such as a ditch or ravine.”
- If you are not at home but in a school or work setting follow the tornado protocal for the building you are in.
After a tornado has passed through and you have the “all clear” from local weather authorities (on a radio, app, or TV station) then you can exit your home, assess any damage, call to check on loved ones or call insurance agents, and help neighbors or others nearby. Be sure to do so safely, wear proper clothing and shoes when doing so and avoid entering any buildings that seem to have taken any damage.
These useful tips, resources, and guidelines can help you know what to do before, during, and after a tornado. For more information specific to your situation read into the linked resources and create your own action plan to share with your family so you won’t be caught unprepared. Tornadoes can occur outside of their typical season so it can’t hurt to be prepared year-round. Although people can’t control these acts of nature we can still take steps to protect ourselves for when they strike.