Tornado Safety 101
Tornado watches and warnings can happen quickly, so understanding the differences between them now, and knowing what to do during each, can help you and your family ride out the storms safely.
Tornado watch vs. warning
What is a tornado watch?
A tornado watch means a tornado is possible and the weather conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and multiple tornadoes in and around the watch area. It doesn’t mean a tornado has been sighted.
What to do in a tornado watch
- Be ready to take cover in your tornado safe space.
- Make sure your safe area has the necessary supplies (survival kit, first aid kit, etc.) and gather anything additional you might need, like your phone and any medications you take.
- Consider moving small, caged pets to your safe area. For uncaged animals, put their collars and leashes on and be ready to move them to your safe area too.
- If you’re in a car or outdoors, consider finding a permanent structure where you can take shelter.
What is a tornado warning?
A tornado warning is more dangerous than a watch and means a tornado rotation has either been sighted or identified by weather radar.
What to do in a tornado warning
- Immediately take cover in your tornado safe space.
- Remember to bring your pets.
- Take additional cover by shielding your head and neck and wrapping yourself in a blanket. A mattress could provide extra protection too.
- If you’re in a car or outdoors, don’t try to outrun a tornado. Find the nearest solid shelter immediately. If there is no shelter nearby, get out of the car and take cover in a low-lying area, like a ditch. Get as close to the ground as possible, cover your head and watch for flying debris.
- In an office or apartment building, go to the lowest level possible and in an inner hallway or room that’s away from windows.
- If you’re in a large open building like a gymnasium or church and can’t leave, take cover under a sturdy structure in case the roof collapses.
And anytime you’re under a tornado watch or warning, be sure and listen to NOAA Weather Radio or a local alert system for current information and instructions.