Tornadoes occur most often in the central United States, but touchdowns are possible almost anywhere in North America, including large cities. When a tornado does occur, it can strike with little warning, so prepare your family to take cover before severe weather moves into your area.
Learn the tornado warning signals used in your community. The most common warning is a siren, which means you should stay inside and take cover immediately. If warning signals are not available, look for these signs of danger:
- Dark, greenish skies
- Large hail
- Dark, rotating, low-altitude cloud
- Loud roar, like a train
To prepare your family for a tornado, put together a disaster emergency kit and conduct family tornado drills in your home. Make sure each family member knows the tornado safety procedures for their workplace or school.
What is a tornado watch?
A tornado watch means that conditions are favourable for tornadoes to develop. In this case, be alert to changes in the weather. Account for all family members, have your emergency kit ready, and keep a battery-powered radio tuned to weather reports. Move cars inside, keeping car and house keys with you. If time permits, move lawn furniture and equipment inside to minimize flying debris.
What is a tornado warning?
A tornado warning means that a tornado has actually been sighted. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, seek shelter immediately.
The safest place to be during a tornado is underground, preferably under something sturdy like a workbench. If there is no basement or cellar in your home, go to a small interior room on the lowest level, such as a bathroom, closet or hallway; the more walls between you and the outside, the better. Keep all windows shut.
Mobile homes are not built to weather tornadoes, so seek shelter elsewhere at the first sign of severe weather. For example, go to a prearranged community shelter or make plans to stay with a friend or relative. As a last resort, go outside and lie flat on the ground with your hands over your head and neck. Be alert for flash floods, which often accompany severe storms.
Do not try to outrun a tornado. Tornadoes can toss cars and large trucks around like toys. If you see a funnel cloud or hear a tornado warning, get out of your vehicle and seek shelter in the nearest sturdy, enclosed building. If such a shelter is not available, lie down in a low area with your hands covering your head and neck. Be alert for flash floods.
Office buildings and schools
Learn the emergency plans for buildings you and your family frequent. If a specific shelter area does not exist, move into interior hallways or small rooms on the building's lowest level. Avoid areas with glass windows and doors, as well as wide-span roofs.
Store or shopping mall
Go to a designated shelter area or to the centre of the building on a low level. Stay away from large, open rooms and windows. Do not seek shelter in parked cars.