When a tornado strikes, the greatest danger is flying or falling debris.
That’s why the National Weather Service says it is important to stay low and pay attention to where you seek shelter so you minimize your chances of being crushed. Here is more advice from the weather service to help keep you safe:
Monitor forecasts: On days when conditions are ripe for a tornado to form, the weather service will issue a tornado watch. On days like that, monitor evolving forecasts, pay attention to your surroundings and know where you’ll seek safety on short notice. The weather service will issue a tornado warning if its radar detects rotation or it is notified of a confirmed sighting.
Ahead of the storm: Have a family plan and practice a family tornado drill. Be sure your cellphone batteries are charged. Have safety supplies in place (battery-operated radio, shoes, bike helmet, padding, etc.). Have a predetermined place to meet after a disaster.
React according to where you are
- Get out, says the weather service. If you have time, run to a tornado shelter or permanent building. If one isn’t available, go outside and lie flat on low ground and protect your head. Get away from trees and cars, which can land on top of you.
- In general, meteorologists say, even your parked car outside your mobile home is safer than the home itself. If you choose that option, get in the car, put on your seat belt and lie down so that your body is below the windows.
- Best plan: During peak periods of danger, plan ahead so that you are away from your mobile home and instead are somewhere with sturdy shelter.
Home with a basement:
- Go downstairs and huddle under sturdy protection, like a work bench, table or stair steps. Stay away from windows. Avoid areas beneath heavy appliances or furniture — refrigerators, stoves — that could crash through the floor and crush you.
- Have extra protection on hand: A mattress to pull over you, shoes so you can walk out over glass and other sharp objects, a bike helmet to protect your head.
- Have a transistor or weather radio or cellphone to monitor conditions.
Home without a basement:
- Go a small, interior room on the lowest floor, like a bathroom, closet, stairwell or hallway. Stay away from windows. Crouch as low as possible, face down, with hands over your head. Cover yourself with a thick padding — blankets, mattress, couch cushions. Wear shoes, and keep a cellphone or radio handy.
- Seek a windowless area in the center of building, away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Stay off elevators. Crouch down and cover your head.
Shopping mall, big box store:
- Keep calm and watch out for others as you seek an interior restroom, storage room or small enclosed area away from windows. Crouch low, cover your head. Follow the directions of a store manager or, if you have a favorite store, learn the locations of the restrooms and storerooms.
- Cars and other vehicles are not safe. Do your best to pull off the road and take shelter in a permanent building during powerful storms.
- If you are in open country and have time to drive out of the tornado’s path, here’s how to do so: Watch the tornado for a few seconds, comparing it to a fixed object such as a tree or highway sign. If the tornado is moving to your right or left, it is not moving toward you. Escape by driving at right angles to its track — to your right if it is moving left or to your left if it is moving right. If the tornado appears fixed and isn’t moving left or right, it is likely moving toward you.
- Get out of the way and seek shelter away from your car. If the tornado hits you while you’re in your car, be sure your seat belt is fastened and lie low, below your windows.
After a tornado: Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them. Do not use matches or lighters in case of leaking natural gas or fuel tanks. Stay out of heavily damaged buildings. Render aid, stay together.
- Opening windows will equalize pressure and protect your house. No, this will just delay you from getting to shelter and increase your risk, especially to flying glass.
- A particular corner of the basement is safest. No, if your house shifts and the walls cave in, being in a corner or near an outer wall could be dangerous.
- Tornadoes will avoid a lake, river, a certain valley or a mountain. Nope.
- Parking under an Interstate overpass is the safest place to ride out a tornado. No! Seek shelter in a permanent building.