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Tornado formation safety: procedures and tips to stay safe until it's over

Updated on October 14, 2013

A beautiful tornado

Beautiful yet scary!
Beautiful yet scary! | Source

Tornado formation


Tornado Alley



Run for your life! A tornado is coming! Just kidding. Don't run. Rule number one actually...DON'T PANIC.

Tornado's can be very frightening, but panicking is the last thing you want to do.

How does a tornado form? First air rotates because of wind shear, winds at two different altitudes blow at two different speeds creating wind shear. Next, it spins faster and faster until a funnel cloud forms. The funnel begins to rotate over and over, faster and faster until it touches ground. It then begins to sweep along the earth, wrecking whatever it comes in contact with.

How do you stop a tornado? don't. Mother nature does once those crazy air temperatures that cause the wind shear level off. Basically the two temperatures need to get closer in range of being the same, so the air stops twirling around. Tornado's like tropical storms and hurricanes and often "play" together. And tornado's love the Midwest USA. There is even a portion of the US affectionately referred to as "Tornado Alley", which is east of the Rocky Mountains and tornado's happen most often in spring and over flat land. Draw a line from Texas upward on a map and you have "Tornado Alley".

What is the definition of a funnel cloud?

A rotating column of air produced by a thunderstorm whose circulation has not yet reached the ground. It is usually filled with cloud droplets and is cone shaped. When it reaches the ground, it is considered a tornado. American Meteorological Society & World Meteorological Organization

Scary stuff!

Top 5 Tornado Myths

  1. Open windows when a tornado is coming-false, don't bother. Whatever structure you happen to be in won't slow down the tornado by allowing small amounts of air to be sucked into it. Best thing to do...get away from all windows! The air from the Tornado will most likely cause them to break, which is dangerous.
  2. If you are in a car, seek shelter under an overpass-NO, don't do this. Wind currents increase as they are squeezed into and over spaces such as an overpass. This makes injury from flying objects or debris more likely, so stay away from them.
  3. Trailer Parks start tornado's-false, but hilarious! I always thought tornado's originated in trailer parks, but truth is, those locations are just more likely to suffer from wind damage, so they make the headlines.
  4. Cities and tall buildings slow down tornado's-false. Once a tornado forms, only one thing will stop it, and that's a change of temperature. You may think a tornado would have a hard time getting through the city, but it's not true. They wind and weave and climb.
  5. Most tornado's are huge!-Nope. Not true. Most tornado's are actually quite small. Usually they range from 50-150 ft wide and travel 1-2 MPH, and they only last a few minutes!

Key points

Don't panic

Avoid windows

Crouch and cover your head

Seek permanent structures for shelter

Interior hallways, bathrooms, storage areas are great

Basements are best

Tornado safety

So how do you, your family, and loved ones stay safe during a tornado? Or even a tornado warning? First, know the signs. Hail or heavy rain followed by a dead calm, or fast changes in wind, whirling dust and debri under a cloud, loud continuous roar or rumble that does not pass like thunder, may be the signs a tornado is coming. If you're near a radio and snap it on, you'll usually hear warnings on the broadcast. You may even hear a town alert going off, those are nice and creepy.

  • If you are outside, and cannot get to shelter, remain calm and lay on the ground, preferably as far away from trees, power-lines, and cars as possible. You don't want that stuff smashing you if a tornado happens to throw it. Get belly down. Place your hands over your head to protect it, and wait it out.
  • If you are in a car, drive away from the tornado when possible. Get as far away as possible. I know storm chasing is tempting, but don't do it. Being in a car is one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado. Do not drive your car under bridges or overpasses. Park your car, again...away from potentially flying objects if possible and away from other motorists, put your seat belt on and your head down. Cover yourself with anything available, and try to remain calm. You can roll the windows down if you like, ha! Better yet, if you can, abandon your car. Find a field and go belly down on the ground.
  • If you are in a mobile home, you're screwed, you probably summoned the tornado to begin with. Just joking! No matter how safe you think your mobile home is, it isn't. Get out of it as quickly as possible and seek shelter in a permanent structure, and as far inside the structure as possible, away from windows. Port-a-john's don't count as a permanent structure FYI. Neither do dog houses, or your car "graveyard".
  • Other locations (like houses, buildings, churches, malls), if you are in a location with a basement, go there. Seek shelter away from dangerous objects. Cover your head with your arms. Duct tape yourself to the floor, ha! Just kidding again. Couldn't resist that one. All other locations without basements; go to the interior of the building, storage rooms, hallways, or interior bathrooms (no windows), stairwells (no elevators please) and crouch, protect your head! Very important. Stay away from large open rooms, like gyms or auditoriums. Keep in mind, basements, interior hallways, avoid dangerous objects that could start flying around.
  • To pass time until the tornado stops, sing songs! Helps calm the nerves. Once the tornado is over, get back to living your lovely life! And help clean up the mess.


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I lived in a tornado prone area most of my life and have been through a couple of scary events. You have written this article well and it will help many to keep safe and protect their property.

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      luckily in Malaysia, we don't have tornadoes. Otherwise, we would have been swept away. No wonder US houses have underground basement. Safety is important because you may not know where you end up. Great and useful tips you have listed. Hope that those who reside tornadoes hit areas ought to read this hub. Voted useful


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