The Weather Guys - Explore the answers to interesting weather questions!

The Weather Guys - Steve Ackerman and Jon Martin

The WhyFiles

This week's question:

How do we stay safe from tornadoes?

The U.S. has a wonderful tornado warning systems. The national system of severe weather watches and warnings has saved untold numbers of lives. In addition to the sirens, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Radio network puts nearly everyone within range of government weather broadcasts. These radios can sound an alarm whenever severe weather warnings are issued for your area. Even with this excellent warning system, there are fatalities as we saw in these recent storms. Many deaths result directly from the force of the tornadoes.

In the event of a tornado, go into a tornado shelter, or the basement, or into a small interior room on the lowest floor of a building, such as a bathroom or closet. Protect yourself from flying debris and stay away from windows. If you are away from a sturdy home, you must seek adequate shelter. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, and eating areas; their large, high roofs can blow off and the walls can collapse. If you are in a mobile home or car, leave it and go to a strong building. Many people are killed when cars and mobile homes are overturned in high winds. If there are no shelters nearby, get into the nearest ditch or depression and protect yourself from flying debris.

Videos have wrongly popularized the notion that it is safe to hide under a highway overpass as the tornado passes overhead. Don’t do it. It is far safer to take shelter in a sturdy building instead. A highway overpass creates a “wind tunnel” effect underneath it and can increase the amount of damage from a tornado.