Tornadoes are the most violent of storms with winds that usually exceed 100 miles per hour and can devastate a neighborhood in seconds. Tornadoes have been reported in every state and can occur at any time of the year, although most tornadoes occur in June.

Danger signs of tornadoes are dark or greenish skies; large hail; large, dark, low-lying clouds; and a loud roar, similar to a freight train. The first step in preparedness is becoming familiar with some of the terms you may hear during severe weather outbreaks.

Watch— Risk of a hazardous weather event has increased significantly. The occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain.

Watches are intended to provide “lead time” to set your emergency plans in motion.  Continue to watch and monitor the local weather.

Warning – Hazardous weather event is occurring, imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. Used for conditions posing a threat to life or property. Set your response plans in motion following official guidance.

Ensuring you are prepared for this weather is essential. offers these tips before, during, and after a tornado:

Before a tornado:

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a tornado:

If you are in: Then:
A structure (e.g. residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)
  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Do not open windows.
A manufactured home or office
  • Get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:

  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.

In all situations:

  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a tornado:

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.


  • Emergency Supply Kit (PDF) – Child Care Aware® of America
    It is best to prepare before a disaster happens by assembling the attached supplies in advance.
  • Helping Children Recover After a Tornado – Child Care Aware® of Missouri Southern Region
    This two-page document provides guidance for helping children recover after a tornado. It discusses children’s reactions to a tornado and its aftermath, and how children do best when parents and teachers remain (or at least appear) calm, answer children’s questions honestly, and respond as best they can to requests.
  • Helping Children Through the Anniversary of a Devastating Tornado – Child Care Aware® of Missouri Southern Region
    This two-page document provides guidance about helping children on the anniversary of a tornado, which may renew early reactions and feelings, and increase worries about something similar happening again. It provides information for parents and caregivers about behavior and signs to look for, how to help, and how to take care of themselves.

For additional resources on tornadoes and severe weather, visit:

Child Care Aware of America

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