Taking Shelter from a Tornado
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground. A tornado can completely destroy well-made structures, uproot trees, and hurl objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can generate rotating wind speeds ranging from EF0: 65-85 mph to EF5: more than 200 mph (Enhanced Fujita Scale).
Know what to do if a tornado has been sighted or a tornado warning has been issued for your area. Identify a safe place in your home where household members and pets will gather during a tornado: a basement, underground shelter or cellar, or tornado safe room offer the best protection, or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
Tornado Safety during the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)
Identify where you would go in the event of a tornado. Practice taking shelter while following social and physical distancing, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and your local health authorities.
Ideal storm shelters in the event of high winds include a safe room built using FEMA criteria, or a storm shelter built to ICC-500 standards. The next best protection would be a small, interior, windowless room on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
Know the Difference between a Watch and a Warning
A Tornado WATCH means tornadoes are possible in and near the area. Review and discuss emergency plans, and check your emergency supplies and shelter area (safe room). Be ready to move to a place of safety, if the watch is upgraded to a warning or if threatening weather approaches.
A Tornado WARNING means a tornado is imminent or has been sighted. Tornado warnings indicate impending danger to life and property! Seek safe shelter immediately, preferably in a safe room, basement, cellar, or to an interior room such as a closet, hallway or bathroom.
If You’re in a Mobile Home
- Do not remain in a mobile home during a tornado. No mobile home is safe during tornadoes or other severe wind events. Even mobile homes equipped with tie-down systems cannot withstand the force or a tornado’s winds.
- Pay attention to all local watches and warnings, and leave your mobile home to seek shelter as quickly as possible before a tornado strikes, preferably in a nearby safe room or building with a basement.
If You’re in an Office Building, Church, Hospital or School
- Make sure you have a portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio to receive weather alerts and storm updates.
- Seek shelter in the lowest level of the building (to designated Tornado Safe Areas). Do not use elevators because power may fail, leaving you trapped.
- Keep away from all windows and glass doorways.
- Do not leave a building to attempt to “escape” a tornado.
If You’re Outside
- Seek shelter inside a sturdy building immediately, and find a small, protected space away from windows.
- Avoid these buildings as shelters: sheds, storage facilities, gymnasiums, shopping malls, mobile homes.
- DO NOT seek shelter under bridges or overpasses. You will become a stationary target for flying debris, with a substantial risk of being blown out and carried by the tornado winds.
- If you cannot find indoor shelter, crouch for protection next to a strong structure or lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Protect your head and neck with your arms.
- Ditches, culvers and ravines should be used only as an absolute last resort because you will be exposed to flying debris, rain, hail, lightning, and extreme wind.
If You Are Driving
- If the tornado is far enough away and you can see it in the distance, NOAA recommends changing course and driving toward a sturdy shelter, as soon as you are able. NOAA recommends truck stops, convenience stores, or restaurants.
- DO NOT seek shelter in a high-risk structure like a mobile home. Staying in your vehicle would be safer.
- If a tornado is imminent and you are forced to stay in your car, keep your seatbelt on, make sure your head is covered, staying below your windshield and windows to protect yourself from glass. Cover your head with a blanket or jacket, if you have one in the car.
- Never take shelter under an overpass or bridge. See the third point under “If You’re Outside.”