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Tornado Awareness and Safety

Tornado season in the U.S. begins in March, but as seen with the recent tornados in the Northeast, they can happen anytime of the year. Although tornados can happen anytime of the year, tornado season begins in the spring because warm and cold air begins to commingle in the atmosphere. This causes the rapid, violent rotating air column that produces tornadoes. During severe storms, tornadoes can touch down with little warning. This is why during severe storm and tornado alerts, everyone should stay tuned to their local news stations and alert media to ensure you have as much time to prepare yourself as possible. Even more importantly, it is important to understand what each warning alert means so you know the correct actions to take.

Do you know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

Tornado Watch BE PREPARED! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies in your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.

Tornado Warning TAKE ACTION! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.

Now that you understand the difference between a watch and a warning, here are some actions you should take to stay safe before, during and after a tornado.

Being prepared for a tornado:

  • Understand your area’s tornado risk. The Midwest and Southeast are at the greatest risk in the U.S.

  • Know tornado signs. Which can include a rotating funnel cloud, a rapidly moving cloud of debris, and loud roaring.

  • Sign-up for your community's alert system and understand the differences in their warning siren tones.

  • Pay close attention to local weather reports and incoming weather.

  • Identify your tornado safe room (small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building is best).

During a tornado warning:

  • Immediately go to your designated safe room or a basement, storm cellar or small interior room on your lowest level.

  • Stay away from windows, doors and outstrip walls.

  • If outside and you cannot reach a sturdy building, find the lowest lying area possible.

  • Crouch down and use your hands and arms to protect your head and neck.

  • Watch out for flying debris!

Once the tornado warning has ended:

  • Continue listening to the radio for information.

  • If trapped, try to cover mouth with cloth to avoid breathing in dust. Try to send a text, bang on pipe or wall, use a whistle if you have one instead of shouting.

  • Avoid fallen power lines, utility lines and any standing water.

  • Do not enter damaged buildings.

  • Save phone calls for emergencies only. Phone lines are often overloaded after a disaster, use text messages or social media to communicate. Short-range radios may be a great idea for your family's emergency kit!

Being prepared before a disaster strikes gives you the best chance to remain safe. Ensure you understand your local emergency alerts, make a plan and ensure your 72 hour emergency kit is stocked!

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