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Tornado Survival

What to do Before a Tornado Hits

Be alert to changing weather conditions:

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio ( or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information.
  • Look for approaching storms
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train

Tornado Survival

If you see approaching storms, or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

What to do During a Tornado

If you are indoors:

  • If you have a pre-designated shelter area (such as a safe room, basement or storm cellar), go there immediately.
  • If you do not, go to the basement or to the centre of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. (An exploding window or door can injure or kill.)
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Get under a sturdy table.
  • If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head and neck with anything available, even your hands. This helps protect you from falling or flying debris, which is the biggest danger during tornados.
  • Do not open windows.
If you are in a long-span building, such as a shopping mall, theater, or gymnasium, it is especially dangerous because the roof structure is usually supported solely by the outside walls. Most such buildings hit by tornadoes cannot withstand the enormous pressure. They simply collapse.
  • If you are in a long-span building during a tornado, stay away from windows.
  • Get to the lowest level of the building - the basement if possible - and away from the windows.
  • If there is no time to get to a tornado shelter or to a lower level, try to get under a door frame or get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. For instance, in a department store, get up against heavy shelving or counters. In a theater, get under the seats. Remember to protect your head.
If you are in a vehicle, mobile home or trailer:
  • These are easily tossed by tornado winds. Get out immediately and do not get under them but go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter.
  • If none are available, follow the directions below for seeking shelter outdoors.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
  • As experience has shown, do not try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in your car!
If you are outside with no shelter:
  • Lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
  • Be aware of the potential for flooding.
  • Avoid vehicles or areas with many trees.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris, which causes the most fatalities and injuries from tornadoes.

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