NWS Jacksonville » Weather Safety » Tornado Safety

TERMS TO KNOW

TORNADO WATCH: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.

TORNADO WARNING: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area, move to your pre-designated place of safety.


Remember, tornadoes occasionally develop in areas in which a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. Remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.

Before the storm

  • Develop a plan for you and your family for home, work, school, and when outdoors.
  • Have frequent drills.
  • Know the county in which you live, and keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement from weather bulletins.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.
  • Listen to radio and television for information.
  • If planning a trip outdoors, listen to the latest forecasts and take necessary action if threatening weather is possible.

If a warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches

  • In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement.
  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Get out of automobiles.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately.
  • If caught outside or if leaving your vehicle, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression.
  • Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned for a substantial storm shelter.
Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.

EVERY school should have a plan!

  • Develop a severe weather action plan and have frequent drills.
  • Each school should be inspected and tornado shelter areas designated by a registered engineer or architect. Basements offer the best protection. Schools without basements should use interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor and away from windows.
  • Those responsible for activating the plan should monitor weather information from NOAA Weather Radio and local radio/television stations. EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD BE EQUIPPED WITH AN ALARMABLE NOAA WEATHER RADIO!
  • If the school's alarm system relies on electricity, have a compressed air horn or megaphone to activate the alarm in ^Mcase of power failure.
  • Make special provisions for disabled students and those in portable classrooms. Students in portable classrooms should abandon them and take shelter in the main school building if a warning is issued.
  • Make sure someone knows how to turn off electricity and gas in the event the school is damaged.
  • Keep children at school beyond regular hours if threatening weather is expected. Children are safer at school than in a bus or car. Students should not be sent home early if severe weather is approaching.
  • Lunches or assemblies in large rooms should be delayed if severe weather is anticipated. Gymnasiums, cafeterias, and auditoriums offer no protection from tornado-strength winds.
  • Move students quickly into interior rooms or hallways on the lowest floor. Have them assume the tornado protection position (shown below).

Crouch graphic

Hospitals, nursing homes, and other businesses and institutions should develop a similar plan!

Tornado picture Tornado picture Tornado picture

"Typical" tornado. However, tornadoes aren't always typical! (Photo by Greg Stumpf)

Some tornadoes appear as a visible funnel only partially to the ground. Look for signs of debris below the visible funnel.(Photo by Gene Rhoden) Some tornadoes are clearly visible while others are obscured by rain or nearby low-hanging clouds. (Photo by Mike Emlaw)

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