Tornado Warning Signs You Need to Know

What to Look for When a Tornado is Approaching

An Amateurs Guide To Surviving A TornadoWe recently learned how tornados are formed, but all that knowledge is useless unless you know what to look for. So let’s discuss how to spot a tornado. 

Sign #1 - Severe thunderstorm tornados are usually accompanied by heavy rain, hail and lightning.

Sign #2 - Rotating wall clouds or funnel clouds originate from the lowering down of the meso-cyclone, almost a certain sign that a tornado is developing or approaching.

Sign #3 - Green skies. In the middle of a thunderstorm, if you see that the dark sky is turning green, it could be a sign of tornado formation. Green-tinted storm clouds are the result of dense moisture in the atmosphere reflecting green light.

Sign #4 - A tornado watch is issued. This happens when conditions are just right for a tornado to form. Learn what to do when a tornado watch is issued

Sign #5 - Flying debris in the air. A tornado may pick up debris on its way to your neighborhood.

Sign #6 – There is a calm period after heavy rain and / or hail. 

There are numerous signs, and you may not see all of them, but the best bet is that you will encounter a few of them before coming in contact with a tornado. There are also several safety rules that you should follow. Below are the do’s, don’ts and the never’s of tornado safety survival.


The Do’s of Tornado Safety Survival:

  • Go to the basement or a customized storm shelter. If you don’t have any of these, you can seek shelter in a small interior ground floor room like a bathroom, closet or hallway.
  • Stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.
  • If possible, find shelter in another building if you are in a gymnasium, church or auditorium. If you are in one of these buildings and cannot leave, take cover under a sturdy structure such as a table or desk.
  • Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris.

The Don'ts of Tornado Safety Survival:

  • Take shelter under a bridge or overpass
  • Remain in a vehicle or mobile home
  • Attempt to “stabilize pressure” by opening windows
  • Dive for the southwest corner of your basement

The Never’s of Tornado Safety Survival:

  • Attempt to outrun a tornado in a vehicle
  • Continue to walk or drive, assuming the tornado won’t strike near you
  • Take open shelter close to a hill or lake because “tornados don't hit lakes”
  • Attempt to photograph an oncoming tornado
  • Chase tornados

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Staying Safe During Tornado Season

Every year from early spring to mid-summer tornados become a reality in many states. Tornados can occur anywhere and at any time if the conditions are right. But during tornado season, the chances of these storms occurring in Tornado Alley and the Great Plains are the greatest.

On average, 60 people will lose their lives each year. So what can you do to make sure you and your family aren't listed among the casualties the next time a tornado touches down in your neighborhood?

Rule #1 – Get Prepared

You need to invest time and money into a disaster supplies kit and create a family disaster plan.

Rule #2 – Treat All Warnings Seriously 

What is a tornado watch, and how is it different from a warning?

A tornado watch defines an area where tornados and other kinds of severe weather are possible in the next few hours. It does not mean tornados will form - just that you need to be alert and prepared to find safe shelter if they do. Find out what to do when a tornado watch is issued

A tornado warning, issued by the local National Weather Service office, means that a tornado has been spotted, or that Doppler radar indicates a thunderstorm acting in a way which can spawn a tornado. Find out what to do when a tornado warning is issued

Rule #3 – Buy a Weather Radio

Make sure your weather radio has fresh batteries, and that it is on standby whenever thunderstorms are likely. A good weather radio will activate itself whenever a tornado watch or warning is issued, (and will do the same for any other weather threat or civil emergency). If there are tornados forming in your area, your best defense is having the time to get to safe shelter, and a weather radio will give you this.

Rule #4 – Find Shelter 

Make sure you know where safe shelter is, and make sure you know how to get there in a hurry. Finding shelter will be made easier if you are prepared. Most workplaces and schools in a tornado-prone area will have an action plan. If you are at home you should move to a safe location, either one you have prepared in your home, or at a public shelter.

The safety of a home storm shelter will depend on the construction of your house, and whether you have modified it to provide a safe room

If you are in your vehicle when a tornado strikes you have two choices. If traffic and roads allow, you can drive away from it - if possible take a few moments to assess the risks.

If you can see the tornado, line it up with a fixed point such as a building or a tree. If it moves to the left or right the tornado is not heading toward you; but to be on the safe side, drive away in the opposite direction.

If it doesn't appear to move, but does appear to be growing larger, it is probably coming your way. If you can't drive away from it or find a secure shelter, abandon your car, and lie flat on the lowest ground you can find - a roadside ditch would be a good option. Cars can be death traps, and sheltering under bridges or overpasses is very risky.

So as you can see, it is best to have a plan, and keep your weather radio handy and charged up. If you follow these guidelines, you should stay safe during tornado season.

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Why It's Important to Have Tornado Insurance

Tornado InsuranceBy now, we have seen the devastating effect of tornados. There were 897 confirmed tornados in 2014 that occurred in the U.S. alone. Although people living in Tornado Alley are the most vulnerable, they can and will strike anytime at any place. This is precisely why having tornado insurance is a must for homeowners.

The time to protect your family, home, and personal property is not AFTER disaster strikes – it should be BEFORE the disaster. First things first. You should never assume that your homeowner's policy automatically covers tornado damage. Many insurance companies exclude certain coverages in high risk areas. While tornado damage is generally covered under "wind damage" in your policy, this may not always be the case. Even if you are covered, it may not be to the degree that you need. In order to find out, you must contact your agent. 

Give them a call and ask if you are covered. If not, inquire as to what types of coverages they offer. Next, take detailed photos of the inside and outside of your home, preferably from different angles. Make sure to include ceilings, floors, windows, walls, roof, sheds and garages. Doing so will help demonstrate their condition before any damage has occurred. Also, take pictures of all your important valuables. Keep a list and save all your receipts! 

Planning ahead and doing your due diligence is the key to staying safe during tornado season. Don't delay and contact your insurance agent today!

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Tornado Averages by Region of the United States

Tornado season does not hit the U.S. all at once – it happens at all different times of year in many places. The map above shows the differences in seasons and which parts of the country get the most tornado action. Below, we broke down each part of the United States by region and give information on the average number of tornados for each state.

Tornado Averages by Region

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How Important Mass Notifications Can be During Tornadoes

How Mass Notification Can Save Lives During TornadosNot only does springtime bring flowers and sunshine, but also high storm season. One of the dangerous byproducts of these weather conditions is flooding and tornadoes. There are many ways to protect yourself during a tornado, but being prepared and having adequate notice to take action is critical.

Many cities that are in the direct path of tornados year after year, have outdated systems to warn their residents when threatening weather is approaching. And every year we see reports of deaths from these destructive weather patterns. Losses not only occur in populated areas, but many times in rural areas where sirens or other older forms of warning systems may not be effective.

Sirens, while they give a warning when the situation is critical, may not allow time for adequate safety measures to be taken and are unable to provide other more critical information needed to protect the public when a tornado is a possibility.

Technology Can Save Lives! 

As technology has developed, so has the ability to provide mass notification to a large number of people with one simple phone call. Notification grid maps can be designated by county, zip code, district, or whatever criteria the emergency service department desires. Mass notification systems are easy, economical and efficient with user-friendly implementation. 

With one call from authorities, a message can be transmitted instantly via text, email or voice mail. The older methods of notification through a television broadcast may not reach all people in the area in time or at all, should there be an electrical outage. Mass messaging is instantaneous and storm information can be figured out rapidly. Additionally, after the storm has passed, resources, aide and shelter information can be dispatched through this messaging system as well.

During tornado season, storms can rip across your county or town leaving those who are unaware injured or even dead. Mass notification systems can save lives and every county emergency service should be utilizing this affordable public safety tool. If you live in an area prone to dangerous weather, educate yourself on what you need to do to stay safe. Check out our recent article An Amateurs Guide to Surviving a Tornado.

As we brace for a severe weather season this year, make sure your county takes advantage of the existing technology of mass notification systems and utilizes this easy-to-use, economic and effective way to warn residents of impending danger.

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Tornado Survival Skills & Tips

Tornado Survival Skills & TipsTornados are often considered nature's most violent storm. Every year tornados leave death and destruction in their wake. Nature’s fury is a part of life, and for all of those who perish in these storms, many more survive. Below you will find facts and tips that can help increase your chances for survival.

Tornado Facts

We recently gave you some tornado facts, but believe it or not, there are even more facts about tornados that we would like to share:

  • Tornados can leave damage paths in excess 50 miles long and one mile wide, and can have winds that reach up to 300 miles an hour.
  • They can strike quickly, with little or no warning.
  • Most tornados have a forward speed of 30-70 miles an hour.
  • A tornado can appear nearly transparent until they pick up dust and debris.
  • The largest percentage of tornados occur between 3 pm. and 9 pm.
  • Most tornados move in a SW to NE direction.
  • Tornados that form over water are called waterspouts.
  • Flying debris is the leading cause of death during a tornado.

Before a Tornado

Oftentimes there are tornado warning signs. Below are a few tips about out how to stay best prepared:

  • Always be alert to changing weather conditions.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or the news for updated reports and advisories.
  • Be prepared to take shelter if needed.
  • Look for these tornado danger signs: dark, or green skies, hail, dark low-lying clouds, cloud rotation and a loud roaring sound similar to a freight train.

During a Tornado

Take shelter immediately! If you're in a home, building, or other structure take shelter in a safe room, basement, outdoor storm shelter or garage shelter. If a shelter is not available then take refuge on the lowest level of an interior room away from windows and doors (like a closet). Also make sure to protect your head and neck. If you are in a vehicle or mobile home get out quickly and find suitable shelter; never try to outrun a tornado! 
If you are outside, then move indoors if possible. If an indoor shelter is not possible, then lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge unless it is your only alternative. Many people believe an overpass is a safe location but the fact is that the winds can accelerate substantially under an overpass. Overpasses also offer very little protection from flying debris and many people have been killed taking shelter under overpasses and bridges.

Tornado Shelters

Your decision to install storm shelter could one day save your life, and the lives of your friends and family. So what are you waiting for? Order your storm shelter today!

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