Preparing for a Tornado

Tornado preparedness should be a primary focus for individuals that reside within the United States. Based on statistics, it has been established that the United States experiences the highest number of tornadoes of any nation within the world. On average, approximately 1,200 tornadoes develop within the continental area of the United States, alone. Approximately one third of these instances of development happen in specific states, which include Nebraska, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This specific group of states experiences such a high volume of tornado development, that it is identified among most as “Tornado Alley”. Other states included in this described area include the eastern region of Colorado and the western region of Pennsylvania.

In addition to this, there are other states that experience a high volume of tornadoes. One example is the State of Florida; however, most tornadoes that develop in this state lack the intensity and overall strength of those that occur within the states that are part of “Tornado Alley”. Despite the fact that the previously mentioned states have higher than average occurrences of tornadoes, it is essential for all residents of the United States to have a solid working knowledge of tornado preparedness. No one within this nation is immune from experiencing these devastating storms. In this guide, you will learn basic facts pertaining to these powerful storms, and how to properly prepare for these storms.

What is a Tornado?

In order to completely understand the steps that are involved in tornado preparedness, it is first important to understand what a tornado is, and the impact it has the potential to have on the region that it affects. In short, it is a powerful stack or column of winds that rotates or spirals around a center that consists of extremely low pressure within the atmosphere. While scientists are still working to uncover the basis of development, it has been established that most of these types of storms occur when there is relatively cool air that is dry in the north combines with warmer air with a large amount of moisture from the south. According to the organization known as the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration”, a tornado is a narrow type of air column that rotates which initiates at the base of a thunderstorm in the air, to the ground.

These storms have the ability to develop in any state, at any time. When the right conditions are favorable, these powerful storms will develop. While not all tornadoes reach the ground, or result in damage, it is essential to learn as much as possible about these cells when practicing tornado preparedness. Based on current technology, most warnings about the development of tornadoes have the potential to reach those that may be impacted in approximately 13 minutes; however, there are cases in which warnings are issued immediately before the tornado touches the ground. By knowing about these storms and what to watch for, you have the ability to take tornado preparedness action steps even if the weather professionals are unable to issue the warning in advance.

Areas of Impact

It is a known fact that certain areas of the United States are more prone to tornadoes than other areas; however, when practicing tornado preparedness, it is imperative that you understand that any location within the United States may be impacted by the development of a tornado at any time of any day during any part of the year. Previously, we mentioned that “ Tornado Alley” has the highest number of tornadoes each year. However, with an average of 1,200 tornadoes occurring annually, a large number of states are at a more immediate risk of tornado activity than others. The most devastating tornado systems develop from storms that are called “Supercells”. These are thunderstorms with rotation. The well-defined circulation often appears obviously on radars. These are referred to as “Mesocyclones”. The following list outlines the top 3 states that are most commonly impacted by tornados. If you reside in or near one of these states, it is critical that you take tornado preparedness action steps:

  1. Florida – According to statistics, this state experiences 12.3 tornadoes for each 10,000 miles. The reason that this state experiences a high number of tornadoes is because it is a peninsula that is surrounded by water and is considered to be the “Thunderstorm Capital” of the entire United States. While July is considered to be the most active month for tornado development, the tropical moisture, the presence of water, the fluctuations of temperatures from day to night and the thunderstorm activity make Florida one of the top states for cyclone development.
  2. Kansas – Based on statistics, this state experiences 11.7 cyclone per 10,000 miles. This state is often identified among many as being the “Heart of Tornado Alley”. It is believed that the reason that it has such a high concentration of cyclonic activity is because the moisture that stems from the Gulf of Mexico moves up and collides with the ever-present dry air that is known in the Southwest region and the area of the Rockies. This, in turn, creates thunderstorms. The thunderstorms then develop rotation and the tornadoes develop.
  3. Maryland – According to information derived from numerous weather sources, this state experiences approximately 9.9 tornadoes for every 10,000 miles. This states ranks in the top three because of the fact that it is a relatively small state when it comes to size, but is considered to be in the top 5 of the largest state as far as population density is concerned.

In addition to the states previously mentioned, the following states are also considered to be high rankers when it comes to tornado development:

  • Illinois
  • Mississippi
  • Iowa
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Alabama
  • Louisiana
  • Indiana
  • Missouri
  • Georgia
  • Wisconsin
  • Massachusetts
  • Colorado
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan

The following outlines some occurrences of what are considered to be the deadliest and most destructive tornadoes in United States history:

  • On March 18th in the year of 1925, the twister known as the “Tri-State Tornado” impacted the states of Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois. A total of 695 people were killed and approximately 2,027 individuals sustained injuries. It moved over a total of 300 miles and the wind speeds ranked at 260mph, plus.
  • On June 8th in the year of 1953, a tornado called the “Flint Tornado” ripped violently through Flint, Michigan. This twister caused 115 individuals to die and another 844 individuals sustained injury. According to the state’s history, this is considered to be the deadliest on file to impact the State of Michigan.
  • On May 22nd in the year of 2011, a deadly tornado struck the town of Joplin in the State of Missouri. This tornado resulted in 158 deaths and well over 1,000 injuries. It remained on the ground for at least 22 miles and wind speeds recorded indicated that they were above the 200mph mark.

Tornado Preparation Supplies

When gearing up to take part in tornado preparation activities, one of the most important aspects of the endeavor is gathering up preparation supplies. These supplies will assist in keeping you aware of weather conditions, changes impacting your area, and will help to meet your needs during and immediately after a tornado. In addition to this, the tornado preparedness supplies will also help address any health and/or medical emergencies that may occur during and after the development and life span of a tornado. You can buy a premade tornado preparedness kit or put one together yourself. The following highlights some of the most important tornado preparedness supplies that should be gathered for your weather emergency kit:

During a Tornado

If you are creating a tornado preparedness action plan, it is imperative that you know what steps to take during a tornado. If your region is expecting or experiencing thunderstorm activity, you should immediately watch for signs of a tornado and listen to your local news broadcasting station for special watches and warnings. It is also important to regularly inspect the outside area for signs of tornado development. One of two statements may be issued regarding tornadoes. The first is a “Tornado Watch”; the second is a “Tornado Warning”. The “Watch” means that the development of a tornado is possible. The “Warning” means that rotation has been spotted on radar or by the naked eye. A “Warning” means that it is time to take the action steps associated with your tornado preparedness plan. These steps should include the following:

  • Mobile homes should be abandoned and you should seek a more suitable shelter.
  • You should opt for a basement, or a low-lying floor within a structure.
  • It is best to cover yourself with something like a mattress, or even pillows.
  • If there is an infant in the home, you should place them within a car seat for their protection.
  • If you have the time, important items such as your keys and/or wallet should be collected.
  • You should keep the windows of the structure that you are in completely closed.
  • If you are in a vehicle, you should attempt to find shelter that is suitable during a tornado, or move away from the location that broadcasters expect the tornado to impact.
  • You should avoid opting for overpasses as a shelter while on the road.
  • If you have no other options, you should find a ditch and lie flat inside of it for protection during a tornado.
  • If you are outdoors, you may utilize a culvert, cave or a ditch for protection.
  • It is important to try to find a sturdy structure that you may hold onto while outdoors during a tornado.
  • Regardless of where you are when a tornado occurs, you should always make an effort to cover your head for protection from flying debris.

The Recovery Process

Once a tornado has passed, you will need to start the recovery process. The following steps may be performed during this time:

  • You should listen to local news broadcasts in order to receive further information and specific instructions on what to do next.
  • You should help others in need. This includes your family, your neighbors, the elderly, those that may be injured and individuals that may be trapped.
  • It is important to actively watch for power lines, trees, and other items that have fallen and may prove to be detrimental to your safety and the safety of your family.
  • When creating a tornado preparedness plan, it is essential to ensure that you have a first aid kit and over-the-counter medications that may be used to treat injuries sustained by you, your family, and those near you after a tornado.
  • If you are near a damaged building, you should avoid entering the structure. However, if you know that there are lives at risk within those buildings and want to assist, it is imperative to enter those buildings with caution.
  • You should check for gas line breakages and leaks. If you are unsure as to the status of a gas line, you should contact your local utility company. Your tornado preparedness action plan list should outline all of the numbers of your local utilities.
  • Use your telephone lines for emergencies only as the lines are bound to be extremely busy after a tornado.
  • You should take pictures of any damage and/or injuries sustained during a tornado once it is safe to do so.


Tornado preparedness is an important element to successfully going through a tornado and recovering from the storm, once it has passed. By educating yourself on what a tornado is, the impending signs of a tornado, the supplies that should be included in your tornado preparedness kit, what to do during a tornado, and how to initiate the recovery process, you and your loved ones are likely to survive this type of weather condition with little to no injuries. A tornado preparedness plan is more than just a checklist; it is an essential element to survival. Tornados have the ability to impact any person, at any time, within the United States. By preparing today, you are sure to make it through the atmospheric obstacles of tomorrow.

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