A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms to form, but it also means that a few storms may be capable of producing a tornado. When a watch is issued, you should go about your normal activities, but keep an eye to the sky and an ear to the National Weather Service's weather radio or local radio and television stations for further updates and possible warnings.
A tornado warning is the ultimate in severe warnings, it means that a tornado is either occurring or imminent based on radar. You should take cover immediately.
Preparing for Tornadoes
- Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
- If underground shelter is not available, go into a windowless interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
- Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
- If you are in a high-rise building, you may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor. Pick a place in a hallway in the center of the building.
- A vehicle, trailer, or mobile home does not provide good protection. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
- When a tornado warning is issued, take cover in your safe location immediately or on the lowest level of the nearest substantial building. Protect your body from flying debris with a heavy blanket, pillows, sofa cushions or mattress.
Getting to Safety Outdoors or in Other Locations
If you can't get to your safe location or the lowest level of a substantial building:
- Cars and trucks
Get out of your vehicle and try to find shelter inside a sturdy building. A culvert or ditch can provide shelter if a substantial building is not nearby. Lie down flat and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
- Mobile homes
Do not stay in mobile homes. Leave immediately and seek shelter inside a nearby sturdy building, or lie down in a ditch away from your home, covering your head with your hands. Mobile homes are extremely unsafe during tornadoes.
- Open buildings (shopping mall, gym, or civic center)
Try to get into a restroom or interior hallway. If there is no time, get up against something that will support or deflect falling debris. Protect your head by covering it with your arms.
Try to find shelter immediately in the nearest substantial building. If no buildings are close, lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands.
Stay in your safe location until the danger has passed.