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. BOMBO ©

    There used to be a section in the front of the phone book that told you what to do. You were suppsed to climb into the bathtub and cover yourself with a mattress. I haven't looked at a phone book in years. Do they still have that nonsense?

    March 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • belladonna

      The info about the bathroom is still there, often because that is the most interior room of a house, one that doesn't have a window, and the bath tub (at least in older houses) is made of porcelain covered metal, which helps provide some extra cover. Even one of those cheap fiberglass ones is of some help, as it's one more thing between you and the tornado. As for the mattess, they now tell you not to bother, as it takes too much time, so use a blanket or pillow or just cover your head with your arms. I just wish the water table wasn't so high in Florida, it's why we have to use an interior room instead of a storm cellar, underground being the safest place during a tornado.

      March 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedaly1968

      The bathtub was frequently safe because it was cast iron and often cemented (or bolted) to the floor.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke

      Phone book ? I have not gotten one of those in about 6 years, when I ditched my land line.

      March 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Scones

    Another alternative is to move to an area where you house doesn't get trashed by the wind every year.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katrushka

      Yeah, because we can all just afford to move for whatever the heck reason we want to.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dreamer96

    All we need now is a natural gas fracking well to start leaking explosive gas under a Nuclear plant and boom...We would have our own Fukushima with power lines down from a tornado.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Portland tony

    If you don't know by now! Too late. People who have to deal with weather anomalies like tornados know what to do! But thanks for the advice.

    March 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Matt

    Lets see, not living in the Central United States because of the risk of tornadoes, not living on the East or Gulf Coast because of hurricanes, or the Pacific Coast because of earth quakes. That doesn't leave many places to live does it?

    March 2, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. palintwit

    Having grown up in one of the trashiest trailer parks in the country makes Sarah Palin the perfect tornado magnet.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • I notice details that others miss

      Every single day, I wake up and JUMP out of bed, jazzed up with anticipation of what palintwit is going to say. He/ she covers such a variety of topics, it's hard to believe it all comes from one human mind. Never a cheap shot, and not bogged down on one old tired subject from 4 years ago. Palintwit keeps this blog so interesting!

      March 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • palintwit

      You probably won't believe this but I actually do write all my own material !

      March 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. 2bits

    Tip from 2bits:

    Build homes like Hobbits!!

    March 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Izzy

    Great advice 🙂

    March 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Caitlin

    The bathtub thing does work. My guy friend goes to Alabama and that saved his life. His house was completely demolished. No way he would have survived if he hadnt been in the tub with a matress over him.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Caitlin

    That bathtub thing does work. My friend goes to Bama and that saved his life last year. His house was completely demolished. No way he would have survived if he wasnt in the tub with a matress over him.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cleveland

    No no no no no no no no NO. (crash)

    March 2, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jenn

    The absolute LAST place you want to be is in your vehicle if you are caught outside. I can't even believe you would suggest that. Vehicles can easily be tossed. You are correct that a bridge or an overpass is no good either, but DO NOT stay in a vehicle. And do not attempt to outrun a tornado in a car. You won't win and you will be an added danger on the road. Avoid trees and vehicles, and find the lowest point...a ditch, gully or wherever the lowest point in the ground is, lay down and cover your head either with an object or with your arms.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BillV

    That's all wrong. Grab your video camera and head outside. I love watching tornado footage.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Will

      Hold my beer and watch this!

      March 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. the real deal

    palintwit what a loser hey everybody he works for cnn dont be fooled thats why everthing he posts is a stuipd comment

    March 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Julie M

    The NWS always seems to be trying to help up learn the difference between tornado watch and tornado warning. How about tornado watch and tornado SIGHTING. We can all understand that without further definition.

    March 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • twisted sister.

      Because they issue a warning if it's radar indicated. It no longer has to be sighted. Unfortunately.
      Maybe they should just get rid of "tornado watch" and call it what it is a "favorable condition"?

      March 2, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • MP ΘY

      Sorry, pumpkins, if you're too dim to know the difference, you belong in OZ.

      March 3, 2012 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
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