Tornado Warning: Tips to Help Withstand This Severe Weather Threat

According to reports from the NOAA National Weather Service, approximately 971 tornadoes were documented in the United States in 2016, with the majority occurring between April and July. Although known tornado alleys in the southeast and Great Plains regions often suffer the most damage and loss of life, tornadoes can strike almost anywhere in the continental United States.1

A tornado is a violently spinning column of air extending from a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornado intensity is often classified according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which measures the strength and estimates the wind speeds of a tornado based on the damage it produces. The ratings range from 0 through 5. An EF 5 tornado can generate wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour and level just about any building along its path. Fortunately, there have been only 59 of these powerful tornadoes since 1950.2

The impact of these frightening weather events can vary greatly, as weak storms may cause only minor damage while violent ones can leave utter devastation in their wake.

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Preparation Matters

  • Have a plan. Tornadoes often appear suddenly, so identify the safest place to ride out a storm in advance. Find out whether there is a community shelter nearby. If it’s possible, have a storm cellar or safe room installed in your home. Otherwise, a basement or an interior room without windows (like a bathroom or closet) is usually the safest place to go. Make sure your family knows the escape routes from your home and decides on an emergency meeting place and contact person in the event that you become separated.
  • Secure your property. Keep trees and shrubbery trimmed, cut weak branches, and remove any trees that could fall on your roof. If there is a tornado watch in place, move cars, lawn furniture, and other outdoor equipment into the garage to protect them from the wind and hail. Don’t open the windows; it could increase the likelihood that water and wind will damage the interior of your home.
  • Listen for severe weather warnings. Your local news may provide some general notification, but a NOAA all-hazard radio can pick up warnings and instructions that are specific to your area. Advance warning of local tornado sightings could give you more time to seek shelter.
  • Go quickly to your identified safe area when a tornado approaches. If you choose a bathroom, lie down in the tub and cover yourself with a mattress.
  • Review your insurance coverage. Standard homeowners policies typically cover damage to a home’s structure and contents caused by a tornado (whether it’s from wind or rain), and may also pay for living expenses such as hotel bills and meals if you can’t live in your home while it is being repaired or rebuilt. Regardless of where you live, it’s important to review your coverage periodically and make sure that the cost to rebuild the structure and replace all of your belongings would not exceed the limits of your policy.