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U.S. Weather Phenomena

Tornado Safety Rules


by listening to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, and television for the latest tornado WATCHES and WARNINGS.
When conditions are favorable for severe weather to develop, a severe thunderstorm or tornado WATCH is issued. What To Listen For... 
  • TORNADO WATCH: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.
  • TORNADO WARNING: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.
  • SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH: Severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
  • SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.

Remember, tornadoes occasionally develop in areas in which a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. Remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist. 
What to do?
If a Warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches: 
  • In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement. 
    If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. 
  • Stay away from windows. 
  • Get out of automobiles. 
    Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately. 
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned. 


Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.


Environmental Clues
Look out for: 
  • Dark, often greenish sky 
  • Wall cloud 
  • Large hail 
  • Loud roar; similar to a freight train 

Caution:
Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel extending only partially to the ground. Look for signs of debris below the visible funnel.

Some tornadoes are clearly visible while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds. 

Tornado Myths
MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.
FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980's, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain.


MYTH: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.
FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage. 

MYTH:Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.
FACT: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place. 

 
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Document Information
Source: National Weather Service - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Last modified: 20100308
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