Survival Skills: What to Do in a Tornado

An in-depth review of what to do in a tornado to ensure you survive. Survival Skills: What to Do in a Tornado

If you have ever seen and survived a tornado, then you already know that being prepared is essential to your survival. If you live in a place like tornado alley, then tornado drills and having to seek shelter becomes commonplace. Tornadoes are one of nature’s deadliest creations and can destroy entire towns when they come through. There are many misconceptions out there about tornadoes as well, that need to be dispelled. If you have never been in a tornado, you need to know how to respond when one strikes in your area. However, you also need to know how to prepare before and what to do after the tornado hits as well. In this blog, we will go into how to prepare for a tornado, what to do during, and what to do after the tornado strikes, as well as debunk some of the myths associated with these forces of nature. With that in mind, read on below for a few survival skills and facts you should know about tornadoes now, before one hits your area.

Stay PreparedTornado-Branch

When spring arrives, it’s best to prepare yourself ahead of time for the possibility of strong thunderstorms and tornadoes, by doing everything you can to ensure your family is safe. The main thing to have is a plan that your family knows well. Tornado drills are also a good idea, to ensure your family is prepared for what might come. Make sure that each family member knows where to go, should a tornado strike and teach them safety tips for what to do if they aren’t at home with you as well.

Know the Signs

Knowing the signs of a tornado is just as important as your family knowing where and how to shelter quickly. Of course, watching your local forecast and knowing the watches and warnings associated with a tornado will help, as will having an app installed on your phone to alert you when the weather worsens. While many tornadoes are visible and can be seen coming towards you, many cannot, so you need to be vigilant. There are other signs that a tornado is imminent, you need to watch out for as well. Those are listed below:

  • There is strong persistent rotation in a cloud base
  • Rain or hail that is heavy and then is followed by an eerie calm or even a violent, fast and intense shift of the wind. Many tornadoes are wrapped into the rain and can’t be seen with the visible eye.
  • Tornadoes sometimes don’t have a funnel, so whirling dust or debris under a cloud base on the ground might be a warning as well.
  • Whether it’s day or night, if you hear a loud continuous rumble that doesn’t fade like thunder, it could be a tornado.
  • At night, if you see small white to blue-green flashes close to the ground, it could be power lines being snapped by a strong wind, and likely means a tornado is headed your way.
  • Also at night, persistent lowering from the cloud base with lightning could mean a tornado as well.

Make sure to watch for these signs of possible tornadic activity when it is that time of year in your area. Tornadoes can’t always be seen, so be aware. It is also important to know the difference between a watch and a warning when you hear them, so you can prepare. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for a tornado in your area and you need to start preparing. A tornado warning, however, means that a tornado has been spotted and you need to take immediate action.

When a Warning is Issued

Once a warning has been issued, it is too late to leave and go somewhere else. If you live in a trailer or on the road, it’s important to get to safety when a watch is issued, you cannot outrun a tornado, so once a warning is issued it’s time to shelter in place. Get to a safe spot in your home and hunker down until the tornado passes.

During a Tornado

Once the tornado has touched down, you do not need to leave the area that you are in. Below, we will go into what you need to do if you are at home, at school, in a car, or somewhere else when a twister strikes.

In Homes with a Basement

If you are in a home with a basement when a twister touches down, get to the basement as quickly as possible. Hunker down with a mattress or other cover over your head. Make sure that you know where heavy objects are above your head in the home, such as TV’s, pianos, and entertainment centers, and make sure to stay from under those areas. It is possible, that these heavy things could fall through the ceiling above and crush you.

In Homes with No Basement, Apartments, or a Dorm

If you live in a home with no basement or live in an apartment or a dorm, you need to do things a little differently. Get away from any windows and head to the lowest floor of the building. You need to get in the smallest room of the building, one that has no windows, like a bathroom, hallway, or closet. Once there, get as low to the floor as possible and put your hands over your head to cover it. If at all possible, put a mattress or thick blankets over your head to keep debris from hurting you, if the ceiling crashes in. If you are in the bathroom, you can get in the tub and hunker down, which may offer some protection as well.

In a Mobile Home

Tornadoes have been known to rip apart mobile homes, even ones that are tied down. Run as fast as you can to some sort of outdoor shelter, if not hunker down in the bathtub and pray for the best.

In a Car or Truck

Tornado-CarBeing in a car or truck is extremely risky when it comes to being caught in a tornado. If at all possible, you need to get to a sturdy building for safety. If there are no buildings in sight or you don’t have time to make it to one, then hunker as far down in the car as you can, and put your hands over your head to cover it. If you can get lower than the road you are on, then get to safety in one of those areas, instead.

These are just a few of the places that you could be when a tornado touches down. If you are outdoors, it’s best to get as low as possible or to shelter if you can. Knowing what to do in specific situations during a tornado might just save your life and the lives of your family members as well. If you have pets, and you have time, try to put them on their leash or in a pet carrier and take them with you to safety.

After the Tornado is Over

Wait until the wind stops blowing and the roaring is over to ensure the tornado is indeed gone from your area, only then should you come out of whatever shelter you have been hiding in. Make sure to be careful of any debris and downed power lines as you come out. The first thing you need to do is let your family and friends know that you are okay. Check for injuries on yourself and family members, then see if you can help others in the neighborhood. Once all is clear, your next step is to start cleaning up the damage and rebuilding your lives.

Now, that you know how to prepare and act when a tornado hits, it’s time to go into the myths out there that need to be dispelled about twisters. Some of these myths have actually caused people their lives, so listen carefully as we discuss the myths surrounding tornadoes that you should be aware of below.

Tornado Myths

Myth #1: Tornadoes Usually Target Trailer Parks

One of the biggest myths out there is that tornadoes normally seek out trailer parks. While it’s true that trailer parks are more susceptible to sustaining devastating damage, due to the fact that they are mobile homes, a tornado can just as easily level an upscale neighborhood, full of well-built houses.

Myth #2: When Driving, Seek Shelter Under an Overpass

This myth has led to casualties more times than we can count. It is highly possible that the wind under the underpass could pick up, putting you in more danger. It is best to get as low as you can and then cover your head to protect yourself from falling debris. If you have ever seen images of what tornadoes can do to cars, you know this is no joke.


Myth #3: You Always See the Tornado Coming

While many people think that you can always see the tornado before it touches down, that’s simply not true. Yes, many times you can see the funnel coming across the field or down the roadway, but just as many times, the twister is wrapped in heavy rain bands and you won’t see it until it’s right on top of you, and it’s too late to act. Never, just assume you can see the danger coming because many times you can’t.

Myth #4: You Always Hear the Tornado Before it Hits

While it is true that you can hear the tornado, it’s foolhardy to wait until you hear that roaring train sound to get to safety. While the wind picks up drastically before a twister touches down, by the time you hear the roaring sound, it’s too late to seek shelter.

Myth #5: Open the Windows so they Don’t Explode

We have all seen the TV shows and movies where characters rush through the building opening the windows, so the pressure from the Tornado won’t explode their windows and perhaps their houses as well. While this is a well-known myth, it’s completely untrue. This came from a time, when it was thought that the pressure of the storm trashed homes, instead of it being the winds. Opening your doors and windows to a tornado actually makes it easier for the wind to get inside and destroy everything in its path.

Myth #6: Tornadoes Only Happen in the Spring of the Year

Another myth that has proved to be deadly is the one where tornadoes only strike in the spring. Though tornadic activity spikes from April to June, they can strike any time of the year. This makes them especially dangerous in the winter time since people are enjoying their time by the fire with friends and family around the Christmas tree, never expecting that a tornado could strike.

Myth #7: Not All States have Tornadoes

Another myth that has caused casualties when it comes to tornadoes, is the one where people think tornadoes don’t strike in all states. This is untrue, in fact, tornadoes have struck every state in the United States. Some more than others, but the possibility is always there. Never think that just because you don’t live in a state that has frequent watches and warnings, that it can’t happen in your town, because it most certainly can.

These are just a few of the things that you need to know to survive a tornado. From preparing for the tornado itself to knowing what to do during and after, and from being prepared during every season to knowing the myths associated with tornadoes that just aren’t true. Tornadoes are fierce and powerful forces of nature. Be prepared ahead of time to protect yourself, your property and the family you love. 


  1. MF: 10 Myths About Tornadoes Debunked
  2. American Red Cross: Tornado Safety
  3. The Weather Channel: 7 Things You Should Never Forget When Tornadoes Strike