How to Survive a Tornado

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With this article content on our website, you will learn how to plan your actions and survive a tornado. The United States has the highest rate of tornado occurrence in the world, so you should read these tornado safety tips to be prepared for anything.

A tornado is a funnel-shaped, frantically rotating vortex that forms in thunderclouds and stretches down to the ground. Near the ground, its diameter is only about 100 m. Rotating wind speeds can surpass 200 mph (322 kph), and the damaged areas can be more than one mile (1.6 km) wide and 50 miles (80 km) long. In the center of the tornado is a scope of extremely low pressure where dust is drawn in, forming a dark branch that rises towards the sky.

High winds from any sort of severe weather can wreak destruction, but the speed and spinning winds of a tornado are especially harmful. It should be noted that comparatively few people are lost to tornadoes. Throughout an average year, tornadoes kill something about 60 Americans, which is about the same amount of people killed by lightning punches.

To be fully savvy and ready for this kind of challenge, read information from this article completely, and take notes. These tornado safety tips might be of great use!

Where The Tornado Usually Appears?

The place in the USA where about 1200 tornadoes fall annually is the world-famous ‘Tornado Alley.’ It is a region made up of all parts of Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, and Ohio. These states are located in the Great Plains, which collect cold polar air from Canada, warm tropical air from Mexico, and dry air from the Southwest, which all collide in this section. That’s why it is called an ‘Alley.’

If there is a stable layer of air on Earth’s surface, which many call a “cap,” heat and moisture accumulate there. When the “cap” weakens, the unstable lower layer of air moves upward, forming supracellular thunderstorms, which are precisely the heralds of tornadoes. According to statistics, most tornadoes appear between 5-6 pm, but of course, the time differs depending on the location of the region.

In addition to being considered a hot spot for tornadoes, the United States is also common in many other places. The most ambitious of them in the world happened in Mexico, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, England, etc. By the way, the most destructive tornado in world history, named ‘Daulatpur–Saturnia,’ happened in April 1989 in Bangladesh, which killed almost 1200 people and even wiped out two cities.

Where You Won’t Experience A Tornado?

Tornadoes grow only with these three factors: vertical air movement, a meaningful contrast in both wind speed and direction within the thunderstorm or air mass, and space for the rotation development. And fortunately, they do not come to the big cities and megalopolises’ centers.

Tornadoes need a wide-open space. That is why they most often occur in states with flat terrain such as the Midwest and West. Tornadoes don’t happen in big cities and mountainous areas because, once again, they need open space to form. This way, tornadoes do not form around cities.

However, there were cases when this happened. On May 12, 1997, a tornado formed in open water near Miami, Florida, and lasted 15 minutes. A huge number of people were harmed, and it also caused huge destruction worth $525,000. Also, due to the flat terrain, Oklahoma City has experienced more than 100 tornadoes in total.

How To Predict This Disaster?

Tornado watch – when the weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop in or near the watch area.

It is challenging to predict the appearance of thunderstorms that lead to a tornado, unlike hurricanes or some other weather phenomena. But if a twister is approaching, be careful because this is an identifying sign of a tornado. There are more in the following article:

  • The big sign is a pale green sky. Many people believe that tornadoes form during the day, so the sun’s red and yellow rays mix with the water and turn the clouds green, although it is not 100% accurate.
  • Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends looking out for the subsequent indications: strong hail, low clouds of a dark color, and a loud roar similar to the rumble of a large freight train.

The appearance of tornadoes looks like a funnel of different widths and may also contain several vortices. Plus, a tornado can be shrouded in the rain, and if it is, it’s hard to notice. And if you see a whirlwind of dust and flying debris in a tornado, then it has already touched the ground.

A tornado watch is announced by the world-great National Weather Service when tornadoes are likely to happen in your area. Be aware of an alert for approaching storms. It’s time to recall your family members, acquaintances, and friends where the safest places are near you.

During a tornado watch, examine the sky and listen to the radio or TV for more information. Be prepared to take shelter. If you notice swirling funnel-shaped clouds, report them instantly by telephone to your local law enforcement agency. If it turns out that they are approaching you, rather seek shelter with a well-armed building or structure as soon as possible.

Typically, mobile homes are destroyed in tornadoes. If you live in a mobile home or an area prone to tornadoes, then it’s time to think about temporarily moving to a monolithic structure. Considering how dangerous tornadoes can be, if you live in a tornado alley, find a home suitable for surviving a tornado, or a basement, or seek shelter where you can hide when the sirens sound and you know for sure that a tornado is coming. If you somehow ended up in your mobile home while the tornado is already coming towards you, it is highly recommended to find the nearest ditch or culvert as soon as possible, lie down there as flat as possible, and wait until the tornado passes by. If such a plan of action is not to your liking, do not pull to the last to finally change your homeplace. You need to be sure that you and those you love are completely protected, so get ready to move now.

How To Know If Tornado Is Near You

It is also important to pay attention to animal behavior. Do you find your cat or dog’s behavior unusual and alarming, or maybe the birds have stopped singing? It is also a big sign that a tornado will soon appear in a nearby radius from you. Also, the only thing that always correctly predicts tornadoes’ appearance is the sound that accompanies it. It is most often described as a deep rumble that turns into a roar.

Even if there was no tornado reported in your area, but there are some initial signs that we described above, and, besides, you begin to hear a steady sound – immediately seek refuge if your place of residence is not near a railway station or airport (the sound of a twister is much different from the sound of trains and planes, but similar) take prompt precautions as soon as you sense something amiss.

This article is here to warn you not to go out and do research on your own because, as a rule, there is no time for this, because as these natural things too quickly overtake and take away everything that is on the surface of the Earth, it is essential always to remember this and also do not lose vigilance if the warning is gone. The best advice is still to be ready to take a tornado shelter as soon as the need arises.

What can you do if a tornado goes to your area?

  • Watch out for the tornado hazard signs above first.
  • After the Tornado is officially confirmed, check the information on NOAA weather radio or other local media to stay informed.
  • Seek shelter such as a basement, and if there is no underground shelter, find some room or other spot on the lowest floor where you can hide. In this case, it is essential to be quick, as the tornado passes with astonishing speed.

Important note! There is a belief among many people that if they can see a tornado and it is ‘moving away’ from their vision, they’re entirely out of danger. This is wrong, as the rotating mesocyclone can drop smaller tornadoes several miles from the main funnel. Moreover, long-track tornadoes frequently reform and fall down at disparate areas within the mesocyclone. So always keep an eye on what’s going, even if you think that disaster is over.

Fujita Scale

In brief, this is a system of measuring and reporting tornado wind intensity, developed by professor T. Theodore Fujita (1920-1998), and path length and width by Allen Pearson (1971). This scale is the most accurate and best way to measure the destructive potential of a twister. A scale based on all the damage that a tornado could cause or have caused human-built structures.

According to scientists, the funnel’s size is not an indicator of the intensity of the tornado. So the scale is based on the damage itself and not on appearance.

Tornadoes are ranked based on wind speed and damage inflicted (Name of scale – Wind speed – Damage):

  • EF0 – 65-85 mph (105-137 kph) – Minor damage to the roof and broken tree branches, and uprooted small trees.
  • EF1 – 86-110 mph (138-177 kph) – Average roof damage, mobile homes are overturned, and cars run off the road.
  • EF2 – 111-135 mph (178-217 kph) – Significant damage to houses, uprooted large trees. Mobile homes ruined, light objects rise into the air.
  • EF3 – 136-165 mph (218-266 kph) – Critical damage to well-constructed buildings, some type of freight train derailed, and big vehicles tumbled.
  • EF4 – 166-200 mph (267-322 kph) – Houses completely wrecked. Raised to the air, objects become lost, all types of vehicles are “somersaulting.”
  • EF5 – >200 mph (>322 kph) – Destruction of buildings, demolished solid-frame houses. The concrete structures are torn. Some cars are thrown about 1 mile (1.6 km).

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The Meaning Of Tornado Warnings

Tornado warning – the tornado was spotted on the ground or predetermined by a radar signal in a danger zone.

A tornado warning is released when a tornado has been already sighted or indicated by weather radar. During a tornado warning, everyone should take shelter as quickly as possible, turn on a radio or TV, and wait for the “all clear” statement by the government.

If you hear that a tornado has reached the area you are in, call your local emergency management office or the American Red Cross for more weather information. You can likewise check out community alerts. The only thing that cannot be 100% predictable is your feelings that determine the degree of this or that danger. So listen to yourself very carefully and if there’s something wrong immediately start acting.

If you have already heard a tornado warning in your area and saw the first signs of this severe weather phenomenon (the sky looks a lot darker than a drop in atmospheric pressure or a loud roar), seek a storm cellar another shelter in the low-lying level immediately. Take at least one radio with you (you can take any, but NOAA considers to be the world best) as well as some water and food if you have time. Furthermore, consider that each member of your family or loved ones have a pre-packed bag with clothes, food, water, an emergency kit, and other means of survival.

How To Survive A Tornado?

When you have no time to drive away from a tornado, and the authorities confirm the message of an impending tornado, you need to act immediately to save your life. Here are some of the CDC’s key details, the national weather service FAQ (which are usually located on the site’s sidebar), and a few other sites.

Surviving In A Building

Notwithstanding where you are, squat low to the ground or lie down, face down, and cover your head with your hands and arms.

1. Find Shelter

Take cover in your planned home shelter (the basement, storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building) and stay there until the danger is gone. If there is no basement, go to an inner hallway or a small protected interior room without windows, such as a closet.

2. Avoid Windows

The first rule of tornado survival: stay away from windows, doors, or outside walls. Tornadoes can make windows suddenly shatter as if they were exploding. It’s another dangerous myth that opening windows can somehow adjust the pressure inside the house. As stated in the National Weather Service’s FAQ sidebar section, opening windows “is useless and a waste of precious time.”

3. Elevators are Dangerous

Stay out of elevators, as you easily could be trapped in them if power is lost, so use the stairs to reach out to the lowest floor. It will ensure further safety.

4. Keep it to the Center

Move straight to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because there is where all the debris collects. Get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table and hold on to it for all you’re worth. Most deaths and injuries from tornadoes are from falling or flying debris. A heavy table or workbench can protect you. Also, cover yourself with a mattress, cushions, or sleeping bags if available.

5. Get out of Mobile Dwelling

Do not stay inside your mobile home during the tornado! A mobile home can overturn very easily even if precautions have been taken to tie down the unit (In the Oklahoma City storm, people inside mobile homes were 35 times more likely to die than people in buildings and 12 times more likely to suffer harsh damages). If there isn’t a substantial shelter nearby, seek shelter in a low-lying area. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

In a Public Building

If you’re in a Public Building (school, office, hospital, factory, mall. etc.):

  • Run to the basement or an inside hallway, a small interior room, a bathroom or closet, and find a safe room on the lowest possible level.
  • Avoid areas with flat, wide-span roofs such as cafeterias, gyms, auditoriums, and spacious hallways, and try to avoid tall buildings as well. Those locations have the biggest potential to be damaged by thunderstorms, coupled with high winds. If there is no time to leave such a building to get to a safer one, get under a door frame or something like that to deflect falling debris.
  • Again, stay away from windows and other open locations.

Surviving Outdoors

If possible, take cover in a low-rise building as soon as possible. But if you did not have time to enter or there is not a single building nearby that could serve you as a refuge, in other words, if you still could not find shelter in any of the structures, read these ‘ Survive a tornado outside’ safety tips:

  • If you are near open water, try to get out of there as soon as possible, this is obvious information but necessary.
  • Get low and away from cars, trees, and other objects that storms and high winds might raise in the air.
  • Find a gully, ditch, culvert, or low-lying area or crouch near a well-built structure. Lie flat, and cover your head and neck with your arms.
  • Be observant of potential flash flooding.

Car Survival

The most dangerous place to survive a tornado is a car. Some of the tornadoes killed more people in the car than those who were in the buildings, so it is believed that vehicles are the “infamous death trap” during the tornado.

  • If you’re in a car, try to drive away to the nearest shelter, but do not forget to keep your seatbelt on, turn the beams on and drive off the open road. If you notice tornadoes or flying debris making your drive dangerous, stop. Do not try to outrun a tornado in an urban environment. Try to drive to the nearest tornado shelter.
  • If there’s nowhere to go or you have no time, stay in the car, put your coat over your head and back, and keep your hands above your head to protect your skull. After the tornado leaves, be careful because after the first one may come a few more.
  • Stay away from bridges, power lines, overpasses, or areas with potential for lots of debris.

Tornadoes on Water

Tornadoes and waterspouts on the water are especially dangerous:

  • If you are in open water at the time of the tornado, try to get out as quickly as possible and get to the nearest shelter.
  • If you can’t get away and there is no time for this, move towards the tornado at a right angle and not immediately away from it.
  • If a tornado is about to overtake your boat, it is better to jump overboard, and then you will most likely avoid the possibility of being injured by debris.
  • If you are on land near open water, do not expect a tornado to bypass you. It rarely happens, but it still happens. Try to seek shelter and hide as soon as possible.

Getting Ready For A Tornado

In addition to preparing a tornado shelter, you must first read all the tips on how to survive a tornado (this article is a comprehensive reference) and watch out for any tornado warning. Every person living in the danger zone (such as Louisiana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, etc.) is advised to know this information and be ready to act correctly in the event of a disaster.

1. Think about a Hideout

Equip your hideout. Build a tornado shelter within your home. Maybe it’s a clever thing to do, as this shelter could have versatile uses. Maybe it’s a place that’s safe to go in case of an earthquake if you’re only seconds away from it. Your shelter place should be stocked with emergency food and water (four liters of water for each person, canned goods, cookies packs, and other), a first aid kit (Antibiotic wipes, pain relievers, bandages, a broad-spectrum antibiotic, necessary medicines, adhesive tape, bar of soap), and survival supplies (Scissors, writing materials, flashlights, battery-operated radio, extra batteries, pocket knife, needle, and thread).

2. Consider a Container

One creative and rather cheap way would be to purchase a large metal storage container, which is always carried off ships at port, and then transferred on to semi-trucks for shipment to warehouses. Containers’ bulk and strength, and that they can be locked, and hold a lot of equipment let you save your life in little harsh conditions. You can dig out a large hole on your property with a backhoe (like a swimming pool), set this metal storage container inside, then dirt it, and put a new lawn right over the top. Outfit your container with a top entrance and ladder, and you have an instant tornado shelter/safe room (of course, your municipality may require permits).

3. Deal with Gas Issues

Determine how to turn off the gas in your house because many disasters can crack gas pipes and lead to astonishingly dangerous leaks. In case you smell gas, you need to immediately switch off the utilities to protect your house from flammable gasses.

4. Clear up the Lawn

Clean your lawn of potentially dangerous debris. Dead branches, any type of decorations, and furniture will be airlifted at hundreds of miles during the tornado, which can turn into danger. To keep your property protected, read the following content:

  • Cut down dead or damaged big and medium tree branches that could be ripped off in high winds.
  • Secure or remove all the lawn furniture. Consider moving heavier pieces to your house (but only if you have time!).
  • Try to keep your lawn free from all of the things that could potentially turn into dangerous items during a tornado.

When Tornado Is Gone

  • Monitor the radio or TV for emergency content or instructions. Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • Look if there are any injured victims and provide first aid if necessary.
  • Do not move critically injured victims unless necessary. Wait for emergency medical assistance to arrive.
  • Try to get out of damaged buildings. Once out, do not reenter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Use great caution at all times.
  • Take photos or videotape the damage to your home or property to receive help after the tornado.
  • If you’re unaffected by the tornado, stay out of the damaged area until allowed in by officials; your attendance may distract emergency operations. However, if a clear need arises for help, be ready to help others in need.

Interesting Tornado Facts

  • Of all the most destructive natural phenomena, the tornado is the most powerful, as it produces the strongest winds on the planet. The wind that accompanies a tornado can be propelled up to 300 mph. Tornadoes can be almost invisible. They can only be identified by flying debris at the base of the funnel. Some are constructed almost entirely of windblown dirt/dust, while others are made up of mini vortices.
  • Most commonly, during a tornado’s ‘path’ – the total area determined to experience at least a little destruction by its deadly power – the twister will travel about 4 miles on the ground and cut a line about 370 meters wide. Still, the worst ones can travel for 100 miles and be a mile wide.
  • The maximum stay of a tornado on the ground is 4-5 minutes, but a tornado can reach the ground more than once.
  • Tornadoes damage the building since a powerful wind’s velocity square increases the pressure on the building’s surfaces.
  • The most frequent direction of all tornadoes is from the southwest to the northeast.
  • Tornadoes appear all over the world, but the United States, where about 800 of them occur annually, has the largest number of destructive tornadoes with a huge number of deaths. Most often, tornadoes appear in April, May, and June.
  • In November 1988, 121 tornadoes hit the 15 southern-central states, claiming 14 lives and $108 million in damage.
  • Even though tornado is the most destructive natural phenomenon, only 2% are defined as violent. But these are, according to statistics, 70% fatal.


We are lucky that every year scientists and meteorologists are developing new ways to solve this kind of problem and new ways to predict possible weather conditions. All this makes it possible to predict a tornado’s appearance and the possible ways of its damage faster and more accurately.

It is also convenient that there is a certain time during which most of the tornado appears: three to seven PM, which makes it convenient for people to immediately report what is happening since they are all awake and in which case they report a tornado in a very short time. And even more so in the United States, if a disaster begins while we are on the street or when we are sleeping, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration plays the famous warning siren, that is, it can warn people far from all possible means of communication about an impending tornado.

And even more, in the USA, if a disaster begins while people are outdoors or when we are sleeping, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather alert radio, which has its famous built-in warning siren, can warn people far from all possible means of communication about an impending tornado.


A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.




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