emergency management

Severe Storm Awareness Tips

Terms to Know

Tornado or Severe Thunderstorm Watch indicates conditions are favorable for their formation in and close to the watch area. The watch is issued to alert you to the possibility that thunderstorms with damaging winds and large hail may develop. Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local media weather updates and stay informed!

Severe Thunderstorm Warning means a severe thunderstorm is occurring or is imminent. In addition to strong damaging winds of 58 mph or greater, severe thunderstorms may contain hail 3/4″ or larger. When thunderstorms are occurring people should remain away from windows or in an interior room. Severe thunderstorms are capable of producing strong straight-line winds. Straight-line thunderstorm winds, occasionally in excess of 100 mph, can uproot trees and destroy buildings. Often, the damage from straight-line wind events is blamed on tornadoes.

Tornado Warning means a tornado is occurring or is imminent. By definition a tornadic thunderstorm is capable of producing severe thunderstorm winds of 58 mph or greater and contain hail 3/4″ or larger. Tornadic winds have been estimated at speeds greater than 260 mph. People in the path of a tornado should move to “tornado safe areas.” These include interior rooms on the lowest floor of a building. If possible seek shelter under a sturdy workbench in the center of the basement. When caught outside in a storm with no well-constructed building available, highway underpasses can provide protection. If no building or underpass is available, look for a ditch or low-lying area (preferably without water). Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.

Act Now to be Prepared

Know the county in which you live in and the names of nearby cities. Severe weather warnings are issued on a county basis. Have disaster supplies on hand, including:

  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Emergency food and water
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Essential medicines
  • Checkbook, cash, credit cards, ATM cards

Before the Storm

  • Check the weather forecast before leaving for extended periods outdoors.
  • Watch for signs of approaching storms.
  • If a storm is approaching, keep a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Weather Radio or AM/FM radio with you.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if storms are imminent.
  • Check on neighbors who may require special assistance -infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

During the Storm

Remember: If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.

  • Move to a sturdy building or car. DO NOT take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles.
  • If lightning occurs and sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep the windows up.
  • Get out of boats and away from water.
  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones only in an emergency.
  • Do not take a bath or shower.
  • Turn off air conditioners. Power can overload the compressors.
  • Get to higher ground if flash flooding or flooding is possible. DO NOT attempt to drive to safety. Most flash flooding deaths occur in automobiles. If you are caught outdoors and no shelter is nearby: Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
  • If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible; minimize your contact with the ground.

After the Storm

  • Check on neighbors who may require special assistance -infants, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
  • Avoid all downed power lines. Assume that all have live electricity.
  • Continue to monitor NOAA Weather Radio and your local media for latest weather updates.