It is impossible to be completely safe during a tornado. The strongest tornadoes can completely level a house, carrying it away with all of its occupants despite the strongest human efforts. However, most tornadoes are not capable of such powerful destructive forces and it is possible to increase your chances of survival by knowing the warning signs of a tornado and knowing what to do during a storm.
- Warning Signs of a Tornado
It is important to tune into weather stations during severe thunderstorms to know if there is an immediate threat of tornadoes. However, weather forecasting is not always perfect and some tornadoes are not reported in time to alert those in its path. The following are signs that a tornado might be headed your way:
- A strong, continuous rotation in the clouds
- Whirling dust and/or debris on the ground beneath a layer of clouds
- Hail or heavy rain followed by extreme shifts in wind
- A loud, continuous rumble which doesn't fade over time
- Bright, blue-green flashes near the ground of power lines breaking
- Lowering of the clouds in a spiraling fashion
- What to do if you are in a...
- House with a basement: Avoid all windows and proceed immediately to the basement. Provide yourself with additional protection by getting under a heavy table or work bench. Do not go under places where heavy objects lie on the floor above as the tornado may weaken the house's structure and cause these objects to fall onto you.
- House with no basement or apartment: Avoid all windows and proceed directly to a small center room such as a bathroom or closet or an interior hallway on the lowest floor of the building. Face down and cover your head with your hands while crouching as close to the floor as possible. Cover yourself with thick padding, such as a mattress or blankets, for protection from falling debris.
- Office building, hospital, nursing home, or skyscraper: Immediately go to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building, as far away as possible from any windows. Interior stairwells are one of the best shelters as they also provide easier access to other parts of the building in case of an emergency. Avoid elevators since if power is lost, you could become trapped.
- Mobile home: Do NOT stay in a mobile home for any reason during a tornado. You have a greater chance of surviving out in the open than inside a mobile home. If your community has a tornado shelter or there is a sturdy permanent building nearby, go there as soon as possible. However, these are not options, see the "Outdoors" section.
- School: Follow the predetermined drill and listen to whoever is in charge. Proceed to an interior hall or room in an orderly fashion. Take shelter under a desk and use your arms to protect the back of your head. Avoid windows and large open room such as gyms and auditoriums.
- Car or truck: If a tornado is visible in the distance and there is light traffic, try to drive out of its path by following a path perpendicular to that of the tornado. However, if this is not possible, abandon your car in a safe place off the road as it may present a significant danger to you and others. If there is a building nearby, take shelter there, otherwise, see the "Outdoors" section.
- Outdoors: If there are any nearby buildings, seek shelter there immediately. If not, lie flat, face-down on the ground and use your arms to protect the back of your head. Avoid cars and trees as they could be blown into you.
- Shopping mall or large store: Do NOT panic! Move to an interior bathroom, storage room, or other enclosed area, as far away as possible from windows.
- Church or theater: Do NOT panic! Proceed to an interior bathroom or hallway. Crouch face-down and use your arms to protect your head. If absolutely necessary, get beneath the seats for additional protection.