Tornado Preparedness – What You Should Do If…


Preparedness for a tornado.

During many months of the year, a large portion of the United States is at risk for tornadoes – as evidenced in the map above which shows tornado tracks from 1950 through 2011.

Given the potentially massive destructive power of a tornado, the best preparedness is that of awareness (more about this later…).

As you all know, the destruction of a tornado is narrowly focused in a swath as it cuts across the earth for several minutes or even a half-hour or more… mostly in a fairly straight line with some zigs and zags.

However the width of the swath may vary from say a hundred feet, to as much as a mile wide! And a tornado can ‘grow’ very quickly…

The following incredible video footage taken by Reed Timmer (storm chaser) of a tornado near Wray, Colorado a few days ago is a sight to behold.

This one was ‘only’ an F2, so imagine how much worse and/or bigger it could be. When you observe the extreme wind circulation it should really hit home as to the dangers of a tornado…

video link


Tornado Preparedness

The best (first) thing you can do is to simply be aware of your weather forecast. Many are so busy with their day-to-day lives that they don’t pay much attention to the weather – figuring that it will never happen to them (a tornado).

You may be interested to read this: 10 Signs That A Tornado May Be Imminent


If indoors during a tornado threat,

1. Get to an underground area, such as a basement or storm cellar.

2. If that’s not an option, go to a ‘small’ interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.

3. Stay away from doors, windows, and outside walls.

4. Stay in the center of the room, and avoid corners because they attract debris.

5. Avoid rooms with wide-span roofs, such as a ‘great room’ in your home, or auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums.


If caught outdoors when a tornado is threatening,

1. Go for shelter in a basement or a sturdy building.

2. If that’s not an option within walking distance, get to your vehicle and drive to a safer place.

3. If flying debris is hitting the vehicle, pull over (seat belt on), keep your head below the windows and cover it with your hands or a blanket.

4. If there is an area which is noticeably lower than the roadway, lie in that area and cover your head with your hands.

Note: Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.

Note: Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

For real-time warning of a tornado, you must have a weather alert radio. You may be aware of an approaching storm during the daytime when you’re alert and can see what’s going on around you, etc.., BUT, if you’re in bed sleeping at night? How will you know??

I recently wrote about the following:
Best Weather Radio 2016

And then there’s a portable (for your car?)
Midland HH50B Portable Pocket Emergency Weather Alert Radio

Your Tornado Stories…?
For those who happen to read this, I’m curious to hear your stories or encounters (or close encounters) with a tornado…


  1. I was driving from Louisiana across the Pendelton Bridge over Toledo Bend Lake during a rain storm, and just before I got to the Texas side, a wind hit so hard it turned the truck around going back to Louisiana. I didn’t know it at the time, just thought a sudden wind/rain surge buckled the truck, and I kept driving on the bridge a few seconds then the rain stopped. Then noticed I was going the wrong direction. I stopped dead in my tracks, looked behind me and sure enough, a water spout just passed over me. It picked up my truck a few inches and turned me 180 degrees on the bridge.

    I was lucky I wasn’t thrown over the side into the lake. Never saw it coming.

    Another time my family was near Alexandria MN camping at a historical event when a tornado touched the edge of the camps. No warnings from the nearby town, no sirens. We heard a loud roar of wind as it approached and had 3 people holding our wall tent inside while the rain hit horizontally through the canvas. I left the tent and went into our TiPi where my mom huddled with my daughter and step daughter. I told them to lay down as the tornado went past the camp.

    Surprisingly, the TiPi held up better because of its cone shape and didn’t rattle like the other tents in camp. We stayed drier too while my ex and his friends were soaked and exhausted. They lost some tents, but no one was hurt. We packed up and left right away when we heard another storm was coming.

    When I lived in the Pocono Mts in E. Pa., we had a storm come, but with a sound I recognized. My ex said tornadoes don’t come into the mountains and I told him I didn’t care… I got the dogs from the pen to take to our basement, but on the way to shelter, I saw trees that were plucked from the ground flying horizontal above our tree line out the window. I heard trees falling around us. After it let up, I looked outside and we lost some big trees around the house………….. I turned on the TV and there was nothing about a severe storm or Tornado, until 10 minutes after the storm passed. Then a warning came for our nearby town 10 minutes after it passed the town and damage was already done.

    It just missed my home and a neighbor on the other side of the mt. was killed by it in their home. The weather channel said it was a fluke, tornadoes don’t go up and down mountains! They didn’t believe the phone calls and had to look at the radar they missed to believe they do go up and down mountains!

  2. I was teaching 6th grade (the reason my name is pencilpusher6) in southwest Mississippi when an order came to get in the halls because of a tornado threat. At the time we were told to open the windows.

    I got my students in the hall and told them all to pray because it was totally black outside and the wind was terrible. The tornado came to my room, rose up and went over it to the other side of the building. It tore up the bleachers and the football area. Rain washed the bulletin board pictures off the wall and the room was filled with 4 inches of water. All the semester test papers and the books were floating in the water.

    That tornado went on to a town 25 miles away and tore most of McComb, MS up. All you can do is try to get out of its way and pray.

  3. A few days ago I took a weather spotter training class. I mainly wanted to be able to determine when severe weather was imminent. It was run by the National Weather Service.

    In the class, we were told that the reason they wanted more spotters was to get the word out quicker when the weather starts to deteriorate. Like Stardust said, sometimes the warning gets out after the fact. If we see a wall cloud, they want it called in right away. That way they can warn of possible tornadoes that could form.

    Like Stardust, we got caught in a micro burst about 5 years ago. We were looking out our big picture window and all we saw was a wall of white. Lots of trees down on our road but no damage done to the house.

    I know a weather radio is invaluable, but sometimes there is no warning as was the case for us. If anyone is interested, the National Weather Service will hold training classes throughout the spring. At the end of the class, you are given an ID number to use when you call in a severe weather situation. It’s free as well.

    1. Keep clothes, shoes, etc. for everybody in your shelter (basement?). If a tornado happens while everybody is in bed, you may save your family by running to the basement, but in the aftermath, do you want your kids walking through the debris field barefoot in their jammies?

      Hand tools in case you need to hack your way out may also be helpful. All the man-toys (tools) in your garage won’t help much if you’re trapped in the basement.

  4. Only once have I had a tornado warning and have a tornado pass by. An F2 as I remember. I see people watching tornadoes as the storm approaches their homes and seconds before it hit them they scurry to the supposed safety room. Later on we see the pictures of destruction and injuries.

    I have a small bag that has a strap so I can place over my head to secure the bag. Within the bag I have a small flashlight and a chemlight, a whistle and a small air horn. My wife has a identical bag. A couple of bike helmets are within reach and a heavy coat. Both will help in prevention of head and body injury by flying debris. Also a set of safety goggles. I figure if you going flying, everything goes with you, some protection and you have a means to signal so others can find you.

    Might sound over the top but I thought I would share it with you all.

    My tornado came at night. I never want to hear the sound of that warning horn again.

    1. That bag is not a bad idea. If you ever actually have to use it, nobody will ever call it geeky again.

      Where I live, they seem to use the tornado sirens for every thunderstorm. People tend to ignore them. ‘The authorities’ are more interested in covering their own butts than looking out for the community.

  5. I would say, besides listening to Weather forecasts, locally, keep up on your social media, facebook etc alerts/warnings from locals.

    A couple of years ago, there was some very bad weather approaching Calgary, Alberta. We frequently checked the local weather reports/t.v. weather channel, etc, and they did not seem overly worried.

    I checked on line, and there were other sources which stated that there were GIANT Tornadoes, several, which looked as if ready to touch down in Calgary. A person in the house checked their Facebook, and there were several warnings, of same, from Weather Chasers, and others, including pictures. – with all this our local forecasts still talked as if only thing to worry about was a bit of rain and wind.

    We made sure there was room for all in house under the basement stairs (enclosed room).

    When all was said and done, nothing to severe in Calgary, one did touch down, outside of city, where there was only few out buildings.

    And, after the fact, local weather did discuss how close the city had come to several (four or five) major tornadoes touching down, and said they would try to have better “info” in future..(but…).

    1. Watching Facebook can give you a heads up on a lot of things. Too bad most people are more interested in posting that they just picked up a pizza, or some other Earth-shattering event.

  6. If your house incorporates a steel I-beam, it may be a good idea to crouch near it, as long as it’s anchored to the foundation and basement floor.

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