A tornado is a vertical column of powerful spinning air that drops down from a cloud and moves across the land. The width of a tornado can be from a few feet to over a mile. They are caused when cool air meets hot air, and though they can occur on any day of the year, they are more common in the spring, summer, and autumn. In 2022, most tornadoes in the U.S. occurred in the months of March, April, May, June, and November. Most tornadoes occur east of the Rocky Mountains in the Great Plains, Midwest and Southeast, but they have been reported in all 50 states. The United States experiences about a thousand tornadoes every year. View this map that shows the risk of tornados by state in the U.S.
Tornadoes can be dangerous and destructive. There are two types of tornado alerts that you should be familiar with: tornado watch and tornado warning. When there is a tornado watch, it means that a tornado is possible in and around the watch area. Be prepared to take shelter when there is a tornado watch in your area. When there is a tornado warning, it means that a tornado has already been spotted and you should take shelter immediately.
Staying Protected in Your Home
- The safest place in the home is the interior part of a basement.
- If a basement is not accessible, go to an inside room, without windows, on the lowest floor. This could be a center hallway, bathroom, or closet.
- Avoid taking shelter where there are heavy objects on the floor directly above you, such as a refrigerator. Heavy objects could fall through the floor if the tornado strikes your house.
- For added protection, get under something sturdy, such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress, and protect your head with anything available—even your hands.
- Stay away from windows. The glass from an exploding window can severely injure or kill.
- If you’re unable to move from a bed or a chair and assistance is not available, protect yourself from falling objects by covering yourself with blankets and pillows.
- If you’re outside and a tornado is approaching, try to find shelter immediately in a building with a strong foundation. If there is no shelter available, find a low-lying area, such as a ditch, and avoid areas with many trees. Make sure to lay flat and protect your head and neck with an object or with your arms.
Stay Protected at Work
- Go to the lowest level possible and find an interior room or hallway without windows.
- Avoid large open spaces such as gyms and auditoriums.
- Do not use the elevator.
- Crouch on the floor and protect your head.
- Stay away from windows.
- Look for Severe Weather Shelter Areas.
Prepare An “Emergency Kit”
After a tornado, you might not have access to water, food, electricity, or other necessities for a period of time. Visit this Settle In Help Center link to view items that should be included in an emergency kit: https://www.settlein.support/hc/en-us/articles/10905687945885
Develop an Emergency Communication Plan
- Make a plan in case family members are separated from one another when a tornado hits. Children may be at school and adults at work.
- After an emergency, local phone networks can be overwhelmed by many people calling or texting at the same time. Dialing long distances could be easier. If you have a friend or relative in another state, ask them to serve as the family contact who can relay messages in case of an emergency. Make sure everyone in the family knows their name and contact information.
What to Do After a Tornado
After a tornado, it is most important to get to a safe location. If you can, take your emergency kit with you. Check for injuries and hazards, then help others. Once you are safe, follow the emergency communication plan that you have prepared to communicate and reconnect with family members.
Use Your Phone as A Tool
There are many free weather apps for your phone that can alert you to tornado warnings. The American Red Cross offers a free app called Emergency: Severe Weather App for both Apple and Android. These apps alert users of severe weather, including tornados, and allows them to keep track of tornado watches and warnings for the region they live in.