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Tornadoes Come with Little Warning

Tornado Facts to Consider

Tornadoes are violent columns of air that appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds extending from the sky to the ground. Tornadoes are extremely dangerous and can have wind speeds up to 300 miles per hour, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Damage paths from tornadoes can be one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Tornadoes usually occur at the end of a severe thunderstorm and can also be caused by hurricanes. They can appear suddenly with very little warning and achieve an average ground speed of 30 miles per hour.

Tornadoes can appear anywhere in the United States, but are most common in the central part known as the Great Plains. Peak season in the South is during the months of March through May, and in the North, from the late spring to early summer.

A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

Tornado Safety Tips

  • Listen to TV or radio newscasts for the most up-to-date information. Listen to instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Watch for approaching storms.
  • Look for these danger signs: dark, often greenish sky; large hail,  large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating); loud roar, similar to a freight train
  • Put together an emergency kit. Your kit should include first aid supplies, blankets and any personal items you may need (medications, toiletries, clothing). If you have pets, make sure they also have adequate supplies.
  • Create an emergency plan. Planning in advance how you will protect your house and how you will evacuate if necessary can help minimize injury and damages. Choose a meeting place away from your home for family members to gather in case you are not together if a tornado hits.

Build a Safe Room

If you’re in a region with a high risk for tornadoes, you can consider building a safe room or wind shelter to protect you and your family. A safe room can be constructed in your basement, in an interior space on your first floor or on concrete slab foundation or garage floor.
To protect 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 these tornado safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency when building a safe room:

  • A safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • 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 home so damage to the residence will damage the safe room itself.


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Did You Know?

Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time.

Federal Emergency Management Agency,