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Natural Hazards
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Tornadoes
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Terrorism
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Recovering from Disaster
Health and safety guidelines
Returning home
Seeking disaster assistance
Coping with disaster
Helping others
 

Tornadoes
A tornado is nature’s most violent storm. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can be upwards of 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard.
Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or clouds obscure some. Occasionally, tornadoes build up so rapidly that little advance warning is feasible.
Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
The following are facts about tornadoes:
They may strike quickly, with little or no warning

They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel

The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 MPH, but may vary from stationary to 70 MPH

Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land

Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months

Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer


Know the Terms:

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:
Tornado Watch: Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information.
Tornado Warning: A tornado has been indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Take Protective Measures
What can I do Before a Tornado?

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

Loud roar, similar to a freight train
If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

What do I do During a Tornado?

If you are under a tornado WARNING, seek shelter immediately!

If you are:

In a structure
Residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building

Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level

If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls

Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside

Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck

Do not open any windows


In a vehicle, trailer or mobile home

Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter

Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes


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

Do not get under an overpass or bridge

Never try to outrun a tornado in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter

Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris causes the most fatalities and injuries


Preparing a Safe Room:

Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code,” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home.

Your basement

Atop a concrete foundation or garage floor

An interior room on the first floor
Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.
To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:

The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning

The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects

The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind

Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room



What do I do After a Tornado?

Follow the instructions for recovering from a disaster.