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Severe Storm Hazards and Safety

Mobile spotters should be extra cautious when operating around any thunderstorm, and even more cautious when dealing with a severe storm.

Here are some tips to stay safe from severe weather while spotting:

  • Know where you are at all times. Be sure your dispatcher or net control station knows your location.
  • Know where you are in relation to nearby thunderstorms.
  • Know the movement (speed and direction) of nearby storms.
  • Always have an escape route to take you out harm's way.
  • Do not "core punch" or drive into a thunderstorm's core. You may encounter a variety of extremely dangerous conditions, including giant hail or even a tornado.
  • Maintain a safe distance when viewing a wall cloud, funnel cloud or tornado. How much distance is safe will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of storm, its movement, the time of day, the road network, etc.
  • Keep your head on a swivel. Avoid being fixated on one feature and not recognizing other dangers with the storm.
  • Be prepared to move quickly and safely to a new position.
  • What are the greatest hazards to storm spotters?

    In order from the greatest hazard to spotters to the least: being on the road, lightning, flooding, hail and wind, and then tornadoes. The slides below add a little more detail to these hazards. Click here for basic spotter safety guidelines that are essential to keep in mind.

  • I see a tornado, what should I do?

    If the tornado is a safe distance away and moving away from your location, then send us your report. Otherwise, if the tornado is too close or it may be moving toward your location, you need to take immediate action to protect yourself! Always plan ahead to have an escape route from a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles away from the tornado path. Otherwise, you need to find a sturdy shelter as quickly as possible! If one is not available (i.e. you are in the open country), as a last resort find a low spot and lie face-down covering the back of your head with your hands. Remaining in your vehicle, or sitting under an overpass are very dangerous, and should not be attempted!

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