Tornado Safety Measures

The text on tornado safety is taken from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Website.

Although there are suggestions on tornado safety, there is no such thing as guaranteed safety inside a tornado. Freak accidents happen; and the most violent tornadoes can destroy any house and its occupants.

Inside a Building

Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes.

Avoid windows. If you make any effort to open windows, they should be only opened an inch or two and should be opened before a tornado warning. After a tornado warning, it is recommended that you do not go near the windows due to the possibility of flying glass or high winds.

Go to the basement, lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway or room with no windows. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they tend to attract debris.

Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands.

Get under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag.

Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

In a Vehicle

If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. [It is safer to get the car out of mud later if necessary than to cause a crash.] Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

DO NOT

  • Do not use elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.
  • Do not stay in large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.
  • Do not stay around glass such as windows or skylights.
  • Do not stay in mobile homes, even if they are tied down.

Before a Tornado

Prevention and practice before the storm: Turn on local TV, radio or NOAA Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings. Many weather alert radios have alarms that can wake you if you are asleep. Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you! If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where there are bathrooms, storage rooms or other interior shelter areas away from windows, and the shortest ways to get there.

Know the signs of a tornado: Weather forecasting science is not perfect and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky. Besides an obviously visible tornado, here are some things to look and listen for:

  1. Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
  2. Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base -- tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
  3. Hail or heavy rain followed by either dead calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.
  4. Day or night - Loud, continuous roar or rumble, which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.
  5. Night - Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
  6. Night - Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning -- especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

After a Tornado

Wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials.

Links to Tornado Information

The information above is presented primarily to cover situations in which Mercer community members may find themselves. For more information on tornado safety at home and other places, please visit these links: