Be ready for nature's most violent storm

Tornadoes are considered the most violent natural storm. They are formed from powerful thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, with a familiar funnel-shaped cloud extending to the ground. Others are obscured by the storm clouds that form them. Skies where tornadoes form are dark and often greenish, with large, dark, low-lying clouds. Large hail is usually a sign of an impending tornado.

How to prepare for a tornado

Tornadoes are a serious threat to your safety. They can strike with little or no advance warning and move quickly with wind speeds up to 300 mph. Having a family emergency plan and a kit of basic emergency supplies on hand is especially important. The following guidelines can also help keep you safe if a tornado strikes:

  • Monitor weather and official news reports. This is the best way for you to learn information to help you determine if tornadoes are in the area and what action you should take.
  • Select a safe place to stay. The safest place to be during a tornado is indoors. Ideally basements and cellars provide the most protection. Interior rooms or hallways also provide good protection from wind and flying debris. Pick a room away from windows and glass doors and cover yourself and others with a thick quilt or blanket.
  • If you are in a vehicle, get out and go to a building. Look for shelter in an interior room or hallway away from windows.
  • If your vehicle is in the open and no building is near, get out and lie as flat as possible in a ditch or on the ground.
  • Do not shelter under an overpass or bridge. The tornado could cause it to collapse.

Make a plan, make a kit

Tornado intensity

Wind Speed Estimates and Damage

The Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale) is used to measure tornado intensity after the storm has passed. The EF Scale ranges in six stages of intensity from EFO (winds 65-85 mph to EF5 (winds greater than 200 mph).

The EF rating is derived from several factors including known and estimated wind speeds, radar data, damage to structures and vegetation and the very cycloidal marks left on the ground by the tornado.

Terms to Know

Tornado watch: a tornado is possible in your area.

Tornado warning: a tornado is actually occurring. Take shelter immediately. Listen to radio and television reports to learn about the status of the tornado in your area from local officials and what action you‘ll need to take. Listen to local officials to learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by your state and local government. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

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