Know the definitions

Tornado Watch

This means tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for information. Consider a reliable weather app for your mobile device.

Tornado Warning

This means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

Examples of Safe Sheltering

In an office building or high-rise building: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building -- away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In a residence hall or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

In a theater or arena: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely dangerous in a tornado. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Otherwise, park the car as quickly and safely as possible -- out of the traffic lanes. (It is safer to get the car out of mud later if necessary than to cause a crash.) Get out and seek shelter in a sturdy building. If in the open country, run to low ground away from any cars (which may roll over on you). Lie flat and face-down, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges or overpasses, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Go to the basement and shelter under sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench) or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not shelter below them. They may fall through a weakened floor and crush you.

In a house with no basement: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail.

In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, you are probably safer outside, even if the only alternative is to seek shelter out in the open. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. If your community has a tornado shelter, go there fast. If there is a sturdy permanent building within easy running distance, seek shelter there. Otherwise, lie flat on low ground away from your home, protecting your head. If possible, use open ground away from trees and cars, which can be blown onto you.

Know the signs of a tornado

Weather forecasting science is not perfect, and some tornadoes do occur without a tornado warning. There is no substitute for staying alert to the sky. Here are some things to look and listen for:

  • Strong, persistent rotation in the cloud base.
  • Whirling dust or debris on the ground under a cloud base -- tornadoes sometimes have no funnel!
  • Hail or heavy rain followed by either extreme calm or a fast, intense wind shift. Many tornadoes are wrapped in heavy precipitation and can't be seen.
  • Day or night - Loud, continuous roar or rumble which doesn't fade in a few seconds like thunder.
  • Night - Small, bright, blue-green to white flashes at ground level near a thunderstorm (as opposed to silvery lightning up in the clouds). These mean power lines are being snapped by very strong wind, maybe a tornado.
  • Night - Persistent lowering from the cloud base, illuminated or silhouetted by lightning -- especially if it is on the ground or there is a blue-green-white power flash underneath.

Practice before the storm

As the likelihood of spring-time severe weather approaches, the Department of Public Safety reminds you that now is the time to practice a response to tornado and severe thunderstorms. Doing so is an important step to minimize and prevent injury and even death during a severe storm. Be prepared wherever you are. At work, become familiar with the locations of restrooms and other interior safe areas. Determine the shortest way to get to a safe area. Make sure to stay away from windows. At home, have a family tornado plan in place, based on the kind of dwelling in which you live. Be familiar with the safety tips that follow. Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds. Practice a family tornado drill at least once a year. Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster. Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc.) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds' notice. When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Turn on local television, radio or NOAA Weather Radio and stay alert for warnings. Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure.

For more information about tornado safety, visit the National Weather Service online at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/tornado/.

National Weather Service Headquarters is kicking off its Spring weather safety campaign. Safety information can be found at https://www.weather.gov/wrn/spring-safety.

Contact

(573) 651-2215

Office
1401 N. Sprigg Cape Girardeau
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63701