According to the National Weather Service, “A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night and at any time of the year. Although tornadoes are most common in the Central Plains and the southeastern United States, they have been reported in all 50 states.”
The Nation Weather Service issues Tornado Watches and Tornado Warnings defined as follows:
- Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
- Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.”
Visit the Storm Prediction Center for location-specific watches and warnings.
Preparedness and recovery resources
- Tornados – Ready.gov provides tips for safety before, during and after a tornado
- Tornado Resources – the National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides resources to help families deal with the trauma of natural disasters including resources specific to tornadoes
- Disaster Assistance Programs – the USDA administers programs to help farmers and landowners recover from natural disasters
- Tornado Safety – The American Red Cross provides information on “how to stay safe during a tornado, and how to improve your home’s ability to withstand tornadoes”