March 2nd, 2012
02:33 PM ET

What to do in event of tornado watch, warning

Editor's note: The following is advice from CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris on steps you can take when a tornado watch or a tornado warning is issued in your area.

A tornado watch means that tornadoes, high winds, and hail are possible in the watch area.

When a watch is issued in your area, keep abreast of the latest information by monitoring television, radio, and NOAA weather radio. A NOAA weather radio is a must, especially for storms that may occur overnight, when you may not be monitoring television or radio. Know the name of the county or parish in which you live and keep road maps handy to assist in tracking the storms.

Tornado warnings mean that a tornado has been spotted, or that radar has indicated that one exists. When a warning is issued in your area:

If you are home, the best place to go is your basement or cellar. For homes without a basement or cellar, go to the lowest floor and take shelter in an interior room or under a stairwell in the center of your home, away from windows. Protect your head if you have a bicycle helmet, use it! If you don’t, use pillows or blankets to protect your head and body.

If you are caught outdoors, try to find a building with a basement, a cellar, a shelter or sturdy building. If you can’t do this, stay in your vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to a shelter. If flying debris hits your vehicle, it is best to pull over and park, but do not get out of your vehicle. Do not seek shelter under bridges or overpasses, because these offer little protection. Put your head down below the windows and cover yourself with a blanket or pillows.

In schools, office buildings, nursing homes or skyscrapers, go to an interior room or hallway away from windows. Crouch down and cover your head. Do not use elevators, because you could be trapped if power is lost. Stairwells without windows also are good places to take shelter.

In a shopping mall, church or theater, move to an interior room such as a bathroom or a storage room. Stay away from windows.

If you are in a mobile home, leave immediately and seek shelter in a sturdy building or shelter. Mobile homes offer no protection from a tornado.

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Filed under: Tornadoes • Weather
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Kansas Garst

    Best Advice-grab a lawn chair and sit on the porch- its' spectacular fun to watch!

    March 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Oklahoman

    I agree with Jenn. Do not stay in your car. That was some bad advice. I can't believe they said stay in your car, but get out of your mobile home LOL...Get out of both! Get into a ditch if you have to.

    March 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      Recent research has been done to show that getting out of your car is a bad idea unless moving to a safe structure. Do not get out a lay in a ditch. If the tornado goes over top if you, you can not keep the air tight space between you and the ground not to mention flying debris. Best options are to find a shelter, drive in right angles away from the storm, or try to position yourself in your car to avoid a direct impact.

      April 4, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. GolfFan

    Our company uses Agility Recovery to protect our business, and help us plan for unforeseen events. I highly recommend their expertise to assist any organization. They also offer an online tool to help family's plan in case something happens at home, as well. Go check them out! Its offered our entire organization peace-of-mind to know we could recover quickly and not go out of business.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. who

    I would not stay in my car if I had any chance to find a cement Road culvert, or low ground foxhole, Concrete structure built low to the ground. Cars do not fly very well!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DEMOC

    Reblogged this on Emergency Management at Georgetown and commented:
    This is a very interesting and informative article from CNN. Though we do not frequently experience tornado activity in the DC region, it pays to be prepared and informed!

    March 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Pat

    Stay in your car and cover yourself with a blanket or pillows. Stay in your car-quick way to get where you're going when the tornado picks you up///How many people keep blankets and pillows in their car?

    March 3, 2012 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. MP ΘY

    Sage advice. I agee completely. Best thing to do is have a Big Bertha to avert the crisis.

    March 3, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Susan Stolar

    Will someone please clarify what to do if you happen to be driving and a tornado suddenly appears? Let's face it, if one travels a lot for business on the interstate and with the way the weather is these days, you never know. A meteorologist in Indiana says get out of the car – and go to a ditch.

    "The best place to be is inside. If you have time, in your car, it may be unavoidable but you need to get inside. Maybe, if you're caught on the interstate, you could go to a hotel or a restaurant. You want to get into a sturdy structure," said 14 News meteorologist Byron Douglas.

    If there isn't a sturdy structure near, Douglas says you have limited options.

    Some agencies recommend staying in your vehicle rather than going to a ditch to avoid flying debris, but Douglas says that should be your last resort.

    "I would not stay in a vehicle personally. I would get to a ditch or a low level area. We saw what happened in Harrisburg, IL. You have EF-3, EF-4 tornadoes with 150 mph winds, they will flip cars," Douglas said.

    If no building is in sight, he says a ditch is your only other option, and that can be just as dangerous.

    "You have the potential for lightning, damaging winds and you also have that potential for flooding. Flooding kills more people than all other components combined," Douglas said.

    Another danger zone is bridge underpasses.

    "We've shown videos over the years where people have survived that but it's not a place you want to be. Knock on someone's door. Get into a sturdy structure," Douglas advised.

    He says being prepared is key. That means avoiding cars and mobile homes as shelter.

    March 3, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. karen

    can you say global warming? thats why all this weather is happening wake up and smell the coffee when have we had soooooooo many tornados in a 3 day period? the earth is angry about our abuse of it, it is fighting back. change needs to happen gop drill baby drill need to drill theirselves 6 feet under.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Martha Grieashamer

    Ever since the violent weather of 1967 (first, a record snowstorm on my 12th birthday) and later, the numerous tornados and waterspouts (tornadoes over water), I have an almost rabid fear of these latter. For several years we never had these threats after '67. Now we seem to have more of them, across bigger areas, lasting longer. Can anyone tell us why this is?

    March 7, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Martha Grieashamer

    I found my previous question on the Internet this afternoon. I'm not sure if the comment above it was a sarcastic reply to an honest question or not. Some weather personnel don't know what they're talking about on the newcasts, others don't address the subject. May I remind everyone after the '67 tornardoes, there was a TV special, very informative, covering what forcasters knew to that point. Maybe we need another one, updated? We've learned quite a bit in the last fifty years or so.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. trex

    ............OK,................who does Jerry Jones know?

    April 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Martha Grieashamer

    hat's the best precaution when you live in a basement where most of the walls are windows? All the precautions say to stay away from them.

    April 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rh

    What do you do if you have to go out, the sun is shining and no sign of clouds, but there is a tornado warning for the next six hours?

    It is difficult to interpret.

    June 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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