Before Event During Event After Event Resources

Before the Event

Tornadoes are small, severe storms of short duration formed by winds rotating at very high speeds. Tornadoes form several thousand feet above the earth's surface, usually during warm, humid, unsettled weather, and usually in conjunction with a severe thunderstorm. As the thunderstorm moves, tornadoes may form at intervals along its path, travel for a few miles and dissipate.

Tornado clouds are most often thunderstorm clouds. An hour or two before a tornado, topsy-turvy greenish-black clouds appear, which sometimes go down instead of up. Tornado sounds resemble a deep roar.

According to the National Hurricane Center, almost all tropical cyclones making landfall in the United States spawn at least one tornado, provided enough of the Hurricane circulation moves over land. Hurricanes may spawn tornadoes from a day or two prior to landfall to up to three days after landfall. Statistics show that most of the tornadoes occur on the day of landfall, or the next day.

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately! Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

Tornado Watch

When a tornado watch is announced it means that tornadoes are expected in or near the area. Residents should keep their radio or television tuned to a local station for information and advice. You should keep watching the sky, especially to the south and southwest.

Tornado Warning

When a tornado approaches, immediate action may mean the difference between life and death.

  • Residents should be advised to seek shelter below ground level, if possible.
  • If outside, move at right angles away from the tornado. If escape is impossible, lie flat in a ditch or low spot.

Tornado Safety Precautions 

Apartment, Condo or Office Building

  • Go into an interior hallway or lower level. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Stay away from glass doors and windows.
  • Stay on the ground floor.
House
  • Stay away from glass doors and windows.
  • Take cover under heavy furniture in the center part of the house.
Mobile Home
  • Leave the trailer for a safer location.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

Schools, Hospitals and Shopping Centers

  • Move to interior hallways on lowest floors.
  • Stay out of auditoriums, gymnasiums, and other structures with wide free-span roofs.

In a Car

  • Do not try to outrun a tornado.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • If available, take shelter in a sturdy structure. Otherwise, get in the nearest ditch or depression until the tornado passes.

Updated March 2013