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TornadoA tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. One of the most powerful forces of nature, a tornado can have rotating winds of up to 250 miles per hour and can occur at any time of year. The damage path of a tornado can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

While watching the weather, listen for:

  • Tornado Watch
  • Tornado Warning
  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning
  • Warning is in effect

Before a tornado:

  • Develop a plan for yourself and your family for home, work, school and when outdoors, and practice with quarterly drills.
  • Keep a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and a battery backup to receive warnings as part of your emergency supply kit.
  • Listen to radio and television for weather information.

During the tornado:

  • Move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement. Use cushions, pillows or if time permits, a mattress to cover yourself to prevent injury from flying debris.
  • In a high-rise, go to the lowest level possible. Interior halls or stairwells offer the most protection. Get into a crouched position and cover your head (with your hands if you have nothing else).
  • Do not use elevators during a tornado.
  • If no underground shelter is available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Stay away from windows and do not open them.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. Instead, seek shelter in a ditch or depression with your head covered.
  • If you live in a mobile home, seek shelter elsewhere nearby.

After a tornado:

  • Before traveling, check to make sure roads are open.
  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, seniors, and people with disabilities.
  • Help injured or trapped persons. Administer first aid where appropriate. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Watch for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report to 911.
  • Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of tornadoes.
  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe.
  • When entering damaged buildings, use extreme caution. Moving through debris presents further hazards. Carefully watch every step you take. Only enter if you must.
  • Wear sturdy shoes.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and reduces fire hazard.
  • Examine walls, floors, doors, staircases, and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
  • Look for fire hazards. Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, or other flammable liquids immediately.
  • Check for gas leaks.

For additional information:

  • FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)