How to Survive a Tornado

Tornadoes can be deadly and devastating, especially since they often happen with little warning.  Read on to learn more about tornadoes and how to survive a tornado.

What is a tornado?

A tornado is a swirling vortex of strong, violent wind that forms over land. It should not be confused with other types of severe weather that are similar in structure.  

  • When the same type of wind forms over the ocean, it is called a hurricane.  
  • A waterspout is a vortex of wind that forms over another body of water.
  • A dust devil is a vortex of wind that, unlike a tornado, is not attached to a cloud.  Dust devils usually form in hot climates and are typically short-lived and not as destructive as tornadoes.

Several factors need to be present for a tornado to develop.  

In simplified terms, tornadoes can form when hot air meets cold air, and the cold air slides underneath, which causes the hot air to rise. This creates drops of water, which can form into large clouds. If the humidity and wind shear are right, this can create severe thunderstorms, and, eventually tornadoes.

Preparation is One of the Keys to Survival From a Tornado

How to survive a tornado - damage

Tornadoes can be difficult to prepare for because they are so unpredictable.  

Scientists have no way of completely accurately predicting exactly where a tornado will hit, how long it will be on the ground, how fast one will move, or how many miles it will cover.  

While they are usually associated with the “Tornado Alley” states (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota) tornadoes have been known to occur in all 50 states. They typically occur in the spring and early summer, but this isn’t the only time that they may happen.

Most homeowner’s insurance includes coverage for loss of property due to a tornado, but you should check the details of your policy to make sure.  

This is an important step because a large percentage of catastrophic loss of property claims in the United States are from tornado damage.  

Another thing to consider? Most car insurance companies offer the option of comprehensive coverage that covers wind damage including tornado damage.  Call your insurance agent or review your policy to learn if you have this coverage. It’s best to do this before you need it, so that you can be prepared.

Many towns and cities offer text alerts for emergencies such as severe weather, and another way that you can prepare for a tornado is to subscribe to these. There are two types of alerts. 

  • A tornado watch when conditions are favorable for a tornado to form
  • A tornado warning when a tornado has been spotted or picked up on radar

How to Survive a Tornado

how to survive a tornado - keys to survival

If there is a tornado watch, you should get somewhere safe and prepare to take shelter.  

If there is a tornado warning in your area, you should take cover immediately.  

The best keys to survival can depend on where you are when the warning is issued. If you are in your home and have a basement, go there.  If possible, cover yourself with a mattress or something sturdy.

If you do not have a basement, go to the interior of the bottom floor and take shelter in a closet, bathtub, or hallway.  Things to remember? 

  • Avoid windows
  • Cover your head
  • Use blankets or other objects to protect yourself from debris

If you live in a mobile home, you should have a plan for surviving a tornado ahead of time.  Get out of your home immediately, and take cover in a permanent structure even if your home is tied down or otherwise secure.

If you are in a public building such as a store, office, or school, do not panic.  Head for an interior hallway or bathroom. One of the most important keys to surviving a tornado in any building is to avoid windows. Stay away from large rooms such as conference rooms, gyms, and auditoriums.

It is very dangerous to be in a vehicle during a tornado. 

 If the tornado is far away and traffic is light, you may escape harm by driving away from its path. However, this is risky because tornadoes can reach ground speeds of 70 miles per hour and their path can be difficult to predict. If you are not going to be able to get away from the tornado, exit your vehicle and look for an area of low ground such as a ditch. Lie face down in it with your hands covering your head.

If you are out in the open, avoid trees and cars.  If possible, find a ditch or hole to lay in and cover your head with your hands.  If there is no low area, lay flat on the ground.

how to survive a tornado - weather.gov

The more you know about tornadoes and other types of severe weather, the better you can prepare for them to occur. Even though the meteorologists cannot always give people a great deal of warning, the more you have in place, the better. 

Tornadoes happening aren’t the only thing to consider, either. You’ll need to figure out what happens next, especially if your home is damaged or destroyed. 

In many cases, electricity will be lost, and the disruption of public services of gas, water, and even trash collection will be disrupted, which can lead to many questions, especially if your home is intact and you are not required to leave. 

Some people will be lucky enough to have a well on property, but if this isn’t the case, consider utilizing the Water Freedom System and your home will never be without clean, fresh water again. 

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