Tornado Safety Message

This notice is archived content and this information may no longer be accurate.
Storms of near-epic proportions have recently killed as many as 231 people in six states. The vast majority of fatalities occurred in Alabama, where as many as 149 people perished. Each year, many people are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes despite advance warning. Some did not hear the warning while others received the warning but did not believe a tornado would actually affect them. Southern tornadoes are so deadly because they are hard to see, such as the nighttime tornadoes in North Georgia and the rain-cloaked tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Ala. Mobile homes, which are easily flipped or crushed, are common in this region, potentially adding to the high death toll.


If a Warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches:
  • In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement. Interior rooms and halls are the best locations in large buildings. Central stairwells are good, but elevators are not. If the building loses power, you may be in the elevator for a long time. Stay away from glass walls and windows, no matter how small.
  • If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.
If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter, then:
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If flying debris hits your vehicle while you are driving, pull over and park.
Last Resort Options:
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
  • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.
Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.

If you don't regularly watch or listen to the weather report, but strange clouds start moving in and the weather begins to look stormy, turn to the local radio or television station to get the weather forecast.
  • While at work, use your desk radio or the Internet to get up-to-the-minute forecasts.
  • If a tornado "watch" is issued for the area, it means that a tornado is "possible."
  • If a tornado "warning" is issued, it means that a tornado has actually been spotted, or is strongly indicated on radar, and it is time to go to a safe shelter immediately.
Be alert to what is happening outside as well. Here are some of the things that people describe when they tell about a tornado experience:

  • A sickly greenish or greenish black color to the sky.
  • If there is a watch or warning posted, then the fall of hail should be considered as a real danger sign. Hail can be common in some areas, however, and usually has no tornadic activity along with it.
  • A strange quiet that occurs within or shortly after the thunderstorm.
  • Clouds moving by very fast, especially in a rotating pattern or converging toward one area of the sky.
  • A sound a little like a waterfall or rushing air at first, but turning into a roar as it comes closer. The sound of a tornado has been likened to that of both railroad trains and jets.
  • Debris dropping from the sky.
  • An obvious "funnel-shaped" cloud that is rotating, or debris such as branches or leaves being pulled upwards, even if no funnel cloud is visible.
  • If you see a tornado and it is not moving to the right or to the left relative to trees or power poles in the distance, it may be moving towards you! Remember that although tornadoes usually move from southwest to northeast, they also move towards the east, the southeast, the north, and even northwest.
At least 100 lives were saved by the warnings before a massive EF-4 tornado — the strongest of the year so far — struck near St. Louis on April 22. Some of the tornadoes from the recent outbreak are speculated to also be EF-4s. It is very important that your office or building security team have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.

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