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The U.S. has more tornadoes than anywhere else in the world (averaging about 1,200 per year), with sightings in all 50 states. Canada is # 2 in volume of tornadoes (averaging about 80 per year) with several high risk areas mostly in central provinces.

Most injuries or deaths caused by tornadoes are from collapsing buildings, flying objects, or trying to outrun a twister in a vehicle. Tornadoes can also produce violent winds, hail, lightning, rain and flooding.

Did you know...

...according to NOAA, 2004 had a record 1,817 tornado reports in the U.S.?! 1974, during a 21-hour period, 148 tornadoes ripped through 13 states and 1 province between Alabama and Ontario, Canada killing 315 people?!

...tornadoes can last for several seconds or more than an hour, but most last less than 10 minutes?!

...peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer?!

...a waterspout is a tornado over water but isn’t recorded until it hits land?!

...the force of a tornado can strip asphalt chunks off roads, rip clothes off people and pluck feathers off chickens?!

As of 2007, the National Weather Service uses a scale called the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale that classifies tornadoes based on 28 Damage Indicators to more accurately estimate wind speeds. (Below explains EF Scale, Wind Estimates and a few examples of typical Damage per NOAA and Wikipedia)

EF0 = Wind speeds: 65-85 mph / 105-137 km/h; Light damage: Peels off some roofs; some damage to gutters or siding; broken branches, etc.

EF1 = Wind speeds: 86-110 mph / 138-177 km/h; Moderate damage: Strips surface off roofs; mobile homes overturned; broken windows, etc.

EF2 = Wind speeds: 111-135 mph / 178-217 km/h; Considerable damage: Roofs/mobile homes destroyed; trees snap; light-object missiles generated, etc.

EF3 = Wind speeds: 136-165 mph / 218-266 km/h; Severe damage: Roofs/walls ripped off sturdy homes; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted & thrown, etc.

EF4 = Wind speeds: 166-200 mph / 267-322 km/h; Devastating damage: Well-constructed homes leveled; cars thrown; small missiles generated, etc.

EF5 = Wind speeds: > 200 mph / > 322 km/h; Incredible damage: All homes leveled and swept away; car-sized missiles fly thru air over 100 metres (109 yards); structural damage to high-rises, etc.


Prepare - Review FLOOD, LIGHTNING, and WIND MITIGATION tips on USFRA forum.

Learn the buzzwords - Learn the terms / words used with tornado threats...
-- Tornado watch - a tornado is possible - listen for updates
-- Tornado warning - a tornado has been sighted so take shelter quickly and keep a radio with you for updates

Learn risks - Ask local emergency management office about threats in your area, what the warning signals are, and what to do when you hear them.

Where am I? - Make sure your kids know what county or area you live in and listen for that name on radio or TV updates.

Get tuned in - Keep a battery-operated radio (with spare batteries) handy for weather forecasts and updates. (Environment Canada’s Weatheradio and NOAA’s Weather Radio have tone-alert features that alert you when a Watch or Warning has been issued.)

Be ready to evacuate - If officials say leave - DO it!

Make a plan - Develop a Family Emergency Plan (e.g. establish meeting places, list of emergency contact #s, out of state contact person, etc) and Disaster Supplies Kits.

Learn to shut off - Know where and how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves -- ask local utilities for instructions.

Where do I go? - Know locations of shelters where you spend time (schools, nursing homes, office, etc.) The best place is underground (like a basement, a safe room, or storm cellar) or find a hallway, bathroom, or closet in middle of building on the lowest floor.

Do drills - Practice going to shelter with your family and “duck and cover” (use your hands and arms to protect head and stay down low).

Put it on film/chip/drive - Either videotape or take pictures of home and personal belongings and store them off-site with your important papers.


Review above tips and...

Listen - Keep up with local news reports tracking the twister or conditions using a battery-operated radio.

Watch & listen - Some danger signs of a tornado include dark green-ish sky, clouds moving to form a funnel, large hail, or loud roar (like a train).

Be ready to evacuate - Keep listening to authorities - if told to leave, DO it (esp if you live in a mobile home or trailer).


Listen - Use a battery-operated radio to hear reports tracking the twister.

Take cover - If you hear or see a tornado coming take cover immediately!

-- Get to a stronger shelter... or ...
-- Stay low to ground in a ditch and cover head with hands.
-- If you hear or see water in the ditch, move quickly to a drier spot (in case lightning strikes nearby).

IF INDOORS - Get to a safe place right away - and avoid windows!!

-- In house or small building - Go to basement, storm cellar or middle of building on lowest floor (bathroom, closet or hallway). Get under something sturdy or put mattress or covers over you for protection & stay until danger passes.

-- In a school, nursing home, factory or shopping center – Go to designated shelter areas (or interior hallways on lowest floor) -- stay away from open areas.

-- In a high-rise building - Go to a small, interior room or hallway on lowest floor possible and avoid windows.

IF OUTDOORS - Try to take shelter in a basement or sturdy building. Or lie in a dry ditch with hands covering your head, but watch and listen for flooding and be aware you’re a bigger target for lightning. And if you hear or see water, move since it can carry lightning’s electrical charge!

IF IN A VEHICLE - GET OUT and take shelter in a building or lie flat in a ditch with hands covering head (but be aware you’re a bigger target for lightning when lying flat & listen for flooding!) DO NOT try to out-drive a tornado! You never know which direction one will go & it moves too fast.


Listen - Use a battery-operated radio to hear reports in case there are more twisters.

Be aware - Watch for broken glass and downed power lines .. and avoid damaged buildings or homes until authorities give the OK to enter.

Check outside first - Before you go inside, walk around outside to check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.

Check chimney - First check from a distance to see if chimney looks normal and have a professional check it if it looks strange. Check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America’s homeowner tips at

Inspect - Check all utility lines and appliances for damage:
smell gas or hear hissing - open a window and leave quickly. Shut off main valve outside, if possible, and call a professional to turn it back on when it’s safe
electrical damage - switch off power at main fuse box or circuit breaker

Clean up - Any flammable liquids (bleaches, gasoline, etc.) should be cleaned up immediately.

Things to check - In addition to above, some other things you want to do include…

  • Check for cracks in the roof, foundation and chimneys.
  • Watch out for loose boards and slippery floors.
  • Check appliances after turning off electricity at main fuse and, if wet, unplug and let them dry out. Call a professional to check them before using.
  • Clean up any spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline, etc.
  • Open cabinets carefully since things may fall out.
  • Look for valuable items (jewelry, etc.) and protect them.

Take & share pics - If you have a camera phone, take shots of the damage to your home or place of business since it may take days before an adjuster gets there. It can also be a way to share updates with neighbors who aren’t able to get to the site. The photos could also be uploaded to First Responders and/or media to help prioritize the response efforts.

Call a professional - If you have any doubts about the safety of your home, contact a professional inspector.

Above from IT'S A DISASTER! …and what are YOU gonna do about it? (proceeds benefit USFRA)

Additional Resources:

Lightning safety tips discussion

Flood mitigation and safety tips

Wind mitigation tips

NOAA Tornado safety tips

More NOAA tips

Institute for Business & Home Safety

The Tornado Project Online!

These are just some basic tips and sure there are things I'm forgetting so pls post your tips, links, personal experiences & comments.

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Replies to This Discussion

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all states dealing with aftermath of this spring's tornadoes. And more severe storms this week per forecasters so bumping this post up in case you'd like to share with your communities.

Some nasty storms and twisters already slamming U.S. - please share these safety tips with friends and communities.

wicked weather pounding southeastern U.S. - stay safe all..!


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