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Danger Signs of a Tornado and What to Do


 Tornados can form very quickly and surprise anyone who is not alert to the danger signs. What warnings may we expect before a Tornado strikes and what actions can we take to protect ourselves.

  The first clue you may receive of a possible Tornado is heard on local Television, Radio or a NOAA Weather Radio, in the form of a weather warning. If the National Weather Service feels some type of weather statement is needed to alert the public, one will be issued by these means. When traveling take a weather radio along or listen closely to local radio stations if bad weather develops.

The First Clues

Some warnings commonly issued by the National Weather Service are for

  • Floods
  • Severe Storms
  • Tornados
  • Tropical Storms
  • Hurricanes

In this article we will concentrate on the two that are issued in the event of a Tornado.


Tornado Watch: Means conditions are favorable for the formation of a Tornado and Severe Storms. Be alert for the formation of these storms. This is the first clue a Tornado may also form.

Tornado Warning: A Tornado Warning means a Tornado has formed and has been spotted by a person on the ground or by radar. Take these warnings very seriously.

  It is obviously important to listen to weather reports when rough weather enters or forms in your area. By listening to these reports you may know if a Tornado has formed and where it may go. Get a map of your area and learn where you live and where other counties are that are mentioned in weather warnings

Will There Always Be A Warning?


 Tornados can form very rapidly from any large Severe Storm cell. This means there may not be time to receive a warning so it is important to know the natural signs of a Tornado, this will put you on alert if conditions merit, even if no warning is given.

Natural Signs of a possible Tornado forming.

  • A dark or green-colored sky.

  • A large, dark, low-hanging cloud ( A Wall Cloud).

  • A funnel cloud. ( A Tornado that has not yet touched the ground.)

Example of Dark Clouds, A Wall Cloud, A Funnel Cloud

Photo Courtesy of NOAA

Other signs of a Tornado

  • Large hail.

  • A loud roar that sounds like a freight train.

When these weather conditions are seen be very alert to take cover in an instant.

If a funnel cloud is close take cover, it may touch the ground in an instant. If the funnel cloud is far away then report it to local authorities or a news room of a local radio or TV station, be alert and ready to take cover if needed. Evacuate dangerous areas immediatly.

Where To Take Shelter

  At home the safest place to be is in a storm shelter, if you don't have one the next best thing is a basement, take cover under a large sturdy piece of furniture or a doorway. If there is no basement, take cover in a room in the center of your home Away from Windows Flying Glass Can Be Deadly. Most injuries and deaths are caused by flying debris, protect yourself as much as possible in a interior room or closet (better) ,on the lowest floor, with sturdy furniture, mattresses or other items. If there is a upper story, do not take shelter where a large heavy item is located just above you on a upper story, if such a heavy item were to fall through the floor it would be disastrous.

Mobile Homes

If you live in a mobile home, GET OUT, before the storm arrives.

Mobile homes do not survive Tornados and their occupants often do not survive. Decide now where you will go if a storm approaches.
 Examples: a neighbors home, a storm shelter, a nearby building or leave the area, before a storm strikes.

In a Automobile

Be alert and try to avoid any confrontation with a Tornado. If a Tornado is approaching, stop, get out, take shelter in a ditch, culvert or gulley, any low spot is better than flat ground, remember most injuries are caused by flying debris, lie down flat on the ground or crawl into a culvert and hold on to anything you can. Try to protect your head as much as possible. DO NOT hide under your car or truck, that would be like hiding behind a soda can when being struck by a freight train.

In other Areas

Remember these simple rules

  • Stay away from widows.

  • Stay near or in doorways or walls in large open rooms ( the roof may collapse)

  • take cover under strong furniture or other structurally strong item.

  • Remember to protect your head with your arms.

  • Do not use elevators, the power may fail

  • Go to the lowest floor, into the most protected spot.

  • Crouch on the floor for protection.


The key to safety is alertness and action before a Tornado strikes.

  All photos Courtesy of NOAA






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