Severe Weather Awareness 2013: Tornado Safety

Murfreesboro, TN EF-4 tornado, April 10, 2009. Photo credit Titus Bartos,

Tornadoes are violent columns of rotating air that are produced by severe thunderstorms.  Weak tornadoes produce wind of  65-85 mph, while the strongest (such as the Joplin, MO tornado of May 2011), produce wind of over 200 mph and can be 1/2 to 1 mile wide or greater. Not all severe thunderstorms produce tornadoes, only a small fraction do, but people should be alert for the possibility if and when a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued.

Tornado safety rules include:

  • At home or in small buildings, go to the basement or storm shelter, or to a windowless interior room such as a closet or bathroom on the lowest level.  Get under something sturdy such as a table or heavy bed.
  • Abandon mobile homes and vehicles for a sturdy structure.
  • In large buildings such as at school, shopping centers, hospitals, or factories/warehouses, go to the predesignated shelter area. Interior hallways on the lowest floor are best. Stay out of areas with high roofs or large roof spans, as they typically offer little to no protection from tornadic wind.
  • At all times, avoid windows or large panes of glass.
  • If outside and sturdy structures are not available, try to drive to the nearest sturdy structure for shelter.  If one is not available, lie down in an area that is lower than surrounding areas (ditch or ravine if possible) with arms/hands shielding your head.
  • When taking cover, have shoes on, photo ID on your person, cell phone (preferably charged in advance) with you, and crouch down and protect the back of your neck with your arms and hands.

A Tornado Watch, typically issued for a large area such as many counties, means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms that can produce tornadoes. Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio or other commercial outlets for possible warnings and watch the sky for the possibility of developing severe weather.  Have your plan ready should a warning be issued and be ready to exercise it.

A Tornado Warning, typically issued for a small area in the path of a storm, means that Doppler Radar has indicated the likelihood of a tornado or a tornado has been sighted by trained spotters or law enforcement.  If you are in the path of the storm, immediately find shelter using the rules above.

A Tornado Emergency is not a warning type, but is issued (usually following the original Tornado Warning) when a large and destructive tornado has been confirmed and is moving into a populated area.  The risk of destruction and fatalities is high and an elevated call-to-action is required.  Everyone in the storm’s path should immediately take action.

MWN has partnered with Take Cover Storm Shelters to keep Mid-South residents safe in the path of the storm. We have become very familiar with Take Cover’s high-quality product, as well as their outstanding customer service, and have no reservations about endorsing this fantastic company. You can learn more about Take Cover and their in-ground shelters, which are installed in a concrete slab such as a garage floor, at their website or on Facebook. Be sure to mention when you contact Jessica!

In addition, a personal warning device that only alerts you if YOUR location is in the path of a dangerous storm is a must have. We encourage you to add StormWatch+ to your app. It will wake you up at night for the most dangerous situations and allow you to customize exactly what locations you want to be alerted for and what types of alerts to receive, as well as when you don’t want to be bothered.  The MWN mobile app is available for iPhone as well as Android devices.

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