Photo of a man looking at a tornado - Photo by Rick Freeman and Pat Murphy

Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. The watch is intended to give you time to review your safety rules.  Watches may last for several hours.  Stay aware of changing weather conditions.  Make sure you have a way to receive weather alerts (phone, text message, weather radio, etc.).

A tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service when a developing tornado has been detected by radar or has been reported on the ground by reliable sources. 

A warning for your area means you should take shelter immediately!

How can I take shelter from a tornado?


At work or in the home:

  • Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection. If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris
  • Put as many walls between yourself and the outside as possible.  Rooms like bathrooms may provide more protection because of plumbing in the walls. Try to get under something sturdy such as a large piece of furniture to protect your head from falling debris.
  • Put on a bicycle or motorcycle helmet to protect your head from injuries.  Head injuries are a major cause of death in tornados.
  • A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. GET OUT. Plan ahead to give yourself time to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
  • As an absolute last resort, if you are caught outside and no shelter is available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area.  Remember that you are trying to protect yourself from the high winds at the surface, so lower is usually better.
  • Do not take shelter under a highway overpass or bridge. These can act as "wind tunnels." You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Plan to stay in the shelter location until the danger has passed.  Take water, snacks, an AM/FM radio, and your cell phone with you.

Do you know what to do during a tornado warning?


Get Inside

Go to the inner-most room of the house or building. Try to put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Interior hallways, closets, and bathrooms can sometimes offer the best protection.

Get Low

Get as low to the ground as possible.  If you can, get below ground, in a cellar, basement, or storm shelter.  Never use the crawlspace under your home for shelter--the house can collapse on top of you!  If outside, with no other shelter available, you can go into a ditch, but be aware of possible flooding.

Get Covered

Cover your head using a football or bicycle helmet, pillows, and blankets.  This is important.  Head wounds are a leading cause of tornado-related injuries.


Last modified
Friday, September 14, 2018 - 6:32pm