Surviving a Tornado 101

Tornado forming in the distance


“It’s a twister, Auntie Em!” Whether we’ve watched the Wizard of Oz or personally experienced a tornado warning, there is much to learn about tornadoes. According to the National Center for Environmental Information (NOOA), the United States  has an average of over 1,000 annual tornadoes. The U.S. leads the world in the number of tornadoes each year, and Canada has the second highest number of tornadoes with only around 100 per year.


Within the United States, the Midwest and the South experience significantly more tornadoes than other regions. Since there are so many around, are we prepared for them when they come? Here’s a crash-course on tornado survival 101.


Warning Signs

These conditions often mean that a tornado might develop:

  • Large hail, even without rain
  • Dark, greenish sky
  • Loud roaring sound
  • A cloud that is dark and low-lying


What To Do

The first thing to do when a tornado is imminent, is to get cover.

If you are inside a structure: Find the lowest place possible, ideally underground (ie. basement, bunker, etc.). If there are no underground areas closeby, get into a closet or smaller room.  Find shelter in the lowest place possible and try to stay in the innermost area of the space. It is important to stay away from all glass, especially windows. Cover your neck and head with your hands. Get near plumbing if you can, perhaps in a bathroom or laundry room.  Because the pipes are rooted, the walls will be reinforced, and you will be more protected.

If you are outside, with no nearby shelter: You want to get as low and flat as possible. Seek the lowest ground. Ditches are the best option for makeshift shelter.  Be mindful of potential flooding or debris that could fill the ditch. Always cover your head and neck with your hands.

Tornado Watch Vs Tornado Warning

The NOAA announces a tornado watch when the environment and weather conditions are favorable for a dangerous storm. When a tornado watch is announced, keep watching the sky and listening for weather updates. Local NOAA teams will issue a tornado warning when a tornado has been spotted either by radar or an individual.  When a tornado warning is announced, immediately take shelter. Whether a tornado watch or a tornado warning is announced, the situation is serious.


Being prepared now ensures that when you need to take action, it won’t be too late. Look around and plan escape routes. Create a survival plan to inform you and others of the potential shelter locations nearby. Start preparing your survival plan now! Doing so will help you make rational decisions in times of emergency and feel at ease.