A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that comes in contact with the ground. Tornadoes vary greatly in size, intensity and appearance. The average movement of a tornado is 30 miles per hour, but speeds of 70 mph have been reported. Wind speeds of between 100 to over 300 mph are possible. The width of a tornado may range from a few yards to over a mile; the path of a tornado may range from a few hundred yards to hundreds of miles.
A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching.
A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).
How to prepare
- Watch for tornado danger signs:
- Dark, often greenish clouds (a phenomenon caused by hail)
- Wall cloud (an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm)
- Cloud of debris
- Large hail
- Funnel cloud (a visible rotating extension of the cloud base)
- Roaring noise
- Know your community’s warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
- Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets can gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
- Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
- Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
- Move or secure lawn furniture, trashcans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
During a tornado
- The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room.
- If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative. Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds
- Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately
- Do not wait until you see the tornado.
If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
- Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
- If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options:
- Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
- If you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.