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Tornado Safety Tips and Information - Be Prepared

Updated on January 3, 2015
Tornado in Ontario, Canada
Tornado in Ontario, Canada | Source

Where Do Tornadoes Occur

Tornadoes are occurring in places that people are not expecting them to happen. Tornado Alley is growing larger and larger. Are you prepared in case a tornado occurs where you live?You don’t have to live in the United States to be a victim of a tornado. Tornadoes have occurred on every continent on earth, except for Antarctica. The majority of the world’s tornadoes do occur in what is called “Tornado Alley” in the United States. The states that are currently in Tornado Alley are North Dakota, South Dakota, the eastern part of Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Eastern Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Western Ohio, Western Kentucky and Western Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. This does not mean that a tornado cannot occur in other states. The US has an average of 1,200 a year. This is more than 4 times the number of any place else in the world.

Tornado in Binger, Oklahoma
Tornado in Binger, Oklahoma | Source

What is a Tornado

A tornado is a violent, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and the base of a cumulus cloud. The are believed to be caused when different temperatures and humidities come together to form a thundercloud. The warm air from the Gulf of Mexico moves northward in spring and summer and meets cold, dryer air from Canada which is moving southward. The warm southern air tries to rise, but the cold northern air blocks it. This causes the warm air that is trapped to start to rotate. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone. Tornadoes can appear in different shapes but are typically in the form of a funnel where the narrow end touches the ground and is usually encircled by a cloud of dust and debris. Tornadoes may be obscured by rain or dust and may not be seen by even an experienced meteorologist. These are especially dangerous tornadoes as there is very little or no warning.

Tornado Damaged House

Our best friend's house after being hit by an F3 tornado.
Our best friend's house after being hit by an F3 tornado. | Source

Tornado Ratings

Tornadoes can occur in different strengths. They are rates on a scale of F-0 to F-5. F-0 and F-1 tornadoes can cause damage to chimney and mobile homes. F-2 and F-3 tornadoes can tear the roofs off of building and toss cars off the roadway. F-4 and F-5 tornadoes and pick buildings up off their foundations and carry cars and heavy machinery for a mile or more. F-4 and F-5 tornadoes can completely destroy homes and businesses. These more dangerous tornadoes don’t occur as often but are responsible for about two-thirds of the deaths due to tornadoes.

The picture to the right, is our best friend's house which was hit by a F-3 tornado 3 years ago. Thankfully, he was not home.

Tornado Damaged House - Rear View

The roof is gone on the rest of the house and more trees uprooted and blown over.
The roof is gone on the rest of the house and more trees uprooted and blown over. | Source

Stay Alert

The most important thing you can do during tornado season is to pay attention! Many of the deaths due to tornadoes are caused when people are not paying attention to the weather. Many of the people that are killed during these storms, didn't even know the storm was coming and they remained in their cars or their mobil homes, which is NOT recommended. The National Weather Bureau has state of the art equipment to let us know when a dangerous storm is approaching. During the spring season, pay attention the the weather, listen to your tv or radio if you see the weather changing suddenly. Purchase a weather alert system for your home or office. They are very reasonably priced and can save your life. This will sound an alarm when the National Weather Bureau gives a severe thunderstorm watch or warning, or a tornado watch or warning. A watch means that conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm or tornado. A warning means that rotation has been spotted and a tornado can occur within seconds. Most lives are lost as these people had no idea that the storm was coming.

Camper Trailer

This is what is left of his camper.
This is what is left of his camper. | Source

What Not To Do

When a tornado is approaching your area, take cover! If you are in your vehicle, do not try to out run a tornado, they can change directions in an instant and can pick up a car and toss it around like a toy. Trying to out run the tornado will more than likely cause you to wreck your car anyway! Do NOT get under a bridge! The people that have survived by doing this are incredibily lucky. If you cannot get to a safe building, get in a ditch or the lowest available place and lie flat. If it is raining, do NOT get into a drain pipe. Recently an 81 year old lady got into a drain pipe during a tornado and drown. Again, pay attention in the spring months and be prepared, have a plan when you go out. Know where you will go in the event of a tornado.

Hay Bales Caught by Tornado

Hay bales and stripped trees after tornado.
Hay bales and stripped trees after tornado. | Source

The Right Thing To Do

If you are in a mobil home, GET OUT! Remember an F-0 to a F-1 tornado can blow a mobil home apart. Do not think you are safe in a mobil home. Most mobil home parks have a storm shelter. If yours does not or you do no live in a park, have a plan. Know where you are going to go if a storm approaches.

If you are in a frame or brick home, be sure to go to the lowerst level and put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible. Most of the injuries that are caused by tornadoes are direct impact with the debris that is flying through the air. A closet or a bathroom that is in the center of your house is the safest place. If possible, take the mattress off the bed and try to cover yourself with it. The mattress will act as another “wall” against the flying debris.

If you are in a restaurant or grocery store, etc., and a tornado is approaching, the business should already have a plan in place. They should already know a designated safe place for their customers. If they do not, remember, the more walls between you and the tornado the better. Usually a bathroom that is closest to the center of the building is best. Get in the bathroom and inside the stall.

Inground Storm Shelter
Inground Storm Shelter

In-Ground Storm Shelters

If you can get to a “storm shelter” it is best. A storm shelter can be a cement, steel or fiberglass room that is placed underground. It will have an entrance/exit door made of heavy steel that is just above ground. The door should fasten shut with a steel latch. I have never heard of anyone being sucked out of a closed tornado shelter.

Safe Room

Safe Room type storm shelter.
Safe Room type storm shelter.

Above-Ground Shelters

There are also what are called “safe rooms”. These are made with thick, reinforced cement walls and steel doors. All safe rooms are tested to withstand an F-5 tornado. These are going to be more expensive that the underground type of storm shelter, but it is your preference. The safe room can be built inside the house during construction or later added to an exsisting home.

Remember, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family is to pay attention to the weather and always be prepared in case of a severe storm. Too many people are losing their lives due to not being aware and not having a plan. I hope these facts on tornadoes and tornado safety will be of some help to you when tornado season approaches.

Video of Moore, Oklahoma Tornado in May of 2013

Have you ever had to take shelter from a tornado?

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    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello unknown spy! Yes, tornadoes can be devastating! Luckily our friend lived alone and had a friend that he could stay with while his house was being repaired. I hope by writing this hub that many people will be spared through learning to pay attention to the weather and installing a storm shelter. Thank you for stopping in and leaving such a caring comment. Have a wonderful day! :)

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      9 years ago from Neverland

      i really hate's scary. Many people are left homeless and dead when this disaster occurs. I pray that tornadoes wont happen in any place.

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Au fait! Yes, tornadoes are the most dangerous of storms, mainly because they are so unpredictable. You never know for sure which way it is going to go! We had a small one come between our house and our barn 3 years ago. We purchased a storm cellar right after that! I'm glad you found my hub useful and thank you much for your comment and share! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      9 years ago from North Texas

      Tornadoes are the most dangerous storms there are. Learned that in my science class a couple of years ago. That's because they are strong and unpredictable. Here we are, you and I, living in Tornado Alley! We're on tornado watch much of the time in spring and early summer and now and then a tornado warning. There have been lots of extremely destructive tornadoes all around where I live, but thankfully none have actually gotten close -- yet.

      Great hub! Voted you up, interesting, useful, and awesome. Everyone should read this hub and learn what to do if they are in danger of being in a tornado. Will share.

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Vinaya. You are lucky you don't have tornadoes in your area. I think we have enough for both of us in where I live. LOL Thank you for your kind comment. It is always appreciated. Have a great day!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      9 years ago from Nepal

      Tornado does not occur in my part of the world, but this hub is informative and useful for the ones who live in tornado prone zones.

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Sunshine! To be perfectly honest...they scare the cra- out of me! I don't think I will ever get used to them. My husband is always so calm, I think that keeps me sane. Thank you for taking time to read and comment on my hub. It is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      9 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I can't imagine the fear of an approaching tornado! I live in Florida and I have survived many hurricanes, but we have days to prepare for it's arrival. Each time I think of tornado victims and how they don't much notice, if any at all! Informative hub!!

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Lyn. I'm glad you found my hub informative. We are thankful that Jim wasn't home too! Thank you for reading, and commenting on my hub, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image


      9 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      your hub has some information that I didn't know about ... I love learning more about tornadoes. I am glad your friend wasn't home when his house got hit. pressed many buttons ...Have a wonderful day.

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Wayne. We used to get in the bathtub with a mattress over us, until one came between our house and our barn. We could hear it, but thankfully it was a very small one that was actually a spin off from a larger one and didn't do much damage. That was too close for me, we had a storm shelter installed the next week! Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub. Take care this season! :)

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Excellent information and advise. I have lived the majority of my life in tornado alley. I have been close by when one has just been through but never actually have I seen one. We have a large closet near the center of the house which we use when things get wicked. Thanks for reminding us that the time is near! WB

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you for your kind words, Paul. No, I have never photographed the actual tornado myself. I would like to though, as long as it is going AWAY from me! Otherwise, I am underground in the shelter. I'm really very afraid of tornadoes. We did have a small one come right beside out house, I could hear it! Scared me to pieces! Thanks for reading! :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Excellent article, your photos showing the devastation are brilliant, well done. Have you ever photographed a tornado yourself, i would love to see it.

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello AliciaC. Thank you for your kind comments. Tornadoes do seem to be occurring in different places these days, it never hurts to be prepared. They really scare the bajesus out of me! That's why we now have a storm shelter. Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      9 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very useful hub, filled with important information. Lately I've been reading a lot about tornadoes happening in different places. They sound very scary. I've never experienced a tornado where I live, but hopefully I'll remember your advice if I ever do.

    • sgbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Sheila Brown 

      9 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Cindy. It is amazing what tornadoes can do. Thank you for your kind words. Be safe this year! :)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Like you, I live where many tornadoes occur. I respect them. You have provided great advice. I have seen some very strange and unexplainable things that a tornado can do. Great hub!


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