National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Dangerous Heat Wave in the West Expanding Eastward; Severe Weather in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest

Dangerous and record-breaking heat will continue for much of the West through Saturday, and expand over central and eastern portions of the country through this weekend. Locally heavy rainfall and flash flooding will continue along the coastal Mid-Atlantic and in the Four Corners region. Strong to severe thunderstorms are possible across portions of the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Read More >

Severe Weather Safety and Survival

What Is A Severe Thunderstorm?

A severe thunderstorm contains at least one of the following:

  • Hail 1" (the size of a quarter) in diameter or larger
  • Wind gusts of 58 mph or greater
  • Tornado

Severe Weather Safety Checklist

This severe weather safety checklist is designed to give you a basic idea of what to do when severe weather threatens. When severe thunderstorms are in the forecast, follow the checklist below to prepare yourself as best as possible.

What To Do When A Watch Is Issued
What To Do When A Warning Is Issued

Before Storms Develop

I heard there was a chance of severe storms today, what should I do?

  • Check the Hazardous Weather Outlook.

    The Hazardous Weather Outlook (HWO) can tell you when thunderstorms are expected to hit, where the best chance of severe weather will be, and what will be the primary severe weather hazards.

  • Visit the NWS Amarillo Severe Weather and Heavy Rain Center.

    The Severe Weather and Heavy Rain page will provide some sort of informative graphic if severe weather is anticipated.  It may give you an idea of where severe weather is most likely in an easy-to-understand graphical display.

  • Check Your Kit:

    If you have a severe weather safety kit and/or NOAA All-Hazards Radio, you should make sure that everything has fresh batteries that work.  You should check your radio, flashlight, etc. because they may become necessary later in the day.  Make sure your cell phone is fully charged in case you lose power.  If you don't have a severe weather safety kit, here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Review Your Safety Plan:

    If you have a severe weather safety plan you should review it.  Make sure everyone in your family knows what to do in certain situations.  Know where everyone will be during the day and make it clear what to do if severe weather impacts your location.  Know where to seek shelter beforehand!  If you don't have a tornado safety plan, review some safety tips and suggestions.

  • Find A Way To Monitor Weather Information:

    Whether it be via a television, AM/FM radio, the Internet, NOAA All-Hazards Radio, etc., continue to monitor weather information during the day for any changes in the situation. Set up a routine (i.e. check the weather information every hour on the hour).  If you have access to the Internet or a NOAA Weather Radio, the NWS Amarillo Hazardous Weather Outlook will be updated by 6 AM and 4 PM CDT daily, and the graphicasts on the NWS Amarillo website are updated as warranted.


If you follow the steps above, you should have a good idea of when and where severe weather may strike, where you and your friends and family will be during that time, what hazards to expect, and know exactly what to do if severe weather should occur.  Also, your severe weather safety kit should be complete and ready.


When A Watch Is Issued

Watches may be issued hours before a storm develops.  The sky may be sunny when you first hear a tornado or severe thunderstorm watch, but remember, a watch just means that conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms and/or tornadoes.

  • Check Weather Information Again:

    Don't be caught off guard!  While watches may be issued before storms form, thunderstorms may be developing when the watch is posted, or thunderstorms may be ongoing and moving into the area.  By checking the weather information again, you will be aware of what is going on around you.

  • Make Sure Your NOAA Weather Radio is Turned ON (if you own one):

    If your NOAA All-Hazards Radio was not already turned on, you should definitely make sure that it's on and the batteries are still working when a watch is issued.  The radio will alert you if a warning is issued, so it is vital to have it on and working correctly.

  • Consider Turning on a TV or AM/FM Radio:

    If you don't own a NOAA All-Hazards Radio, you may want to consider turning on a television to a local station, or turning on an AM/FM radio.  A local television station is probably the best means of staying updated on the situation other than a NOAA All-Hazards Radio, or the NWS Amarillo website.


When A Severe Thunderstorm Warning Is Issued

Do not ignore severe thunderstorm warnings!  Severe thunderstorm warnings may precede tornado warnings, providing you with extra time to prepare for a dangerous storm.  If there's a severe thunderstorm headed your way, you should monitor it closely, especially if a tornado watch is also in effect.

  • Move Indoors and Away From Windows:

    Again, do not ignore severe thunderstorm warnings.  Severe thunderstorms can produce damaging straight-line winds and large hail.  It is important to move inside a sturdy structure and stay away from windows.

  • Monitor Weather Information Continuously:

    Severe thunderstorms can and do produce tornadoes.  Whatever method you use to stay up-to-date on severe weather information, make sure you do so.  Being aware of what's going on around you is very important.


When A Tornado Warning Is Issued

Tornado warnings contain information that lists the cities and towns in the path of a tornado.  While your National Weather Service strives to provide the most detailed and accurate information possible, there may be occasions when your small town or community is in the path of a dangerous storm, but is not listed in the warning text.  This also holds true for television path forecasts.  You should be cautious when using detailed forecasts of time and location.  Because of the way radar works and how storms behave, these times and locations could be off by several minutes and several miles.  Allow yourself plenty of time to get to your tornado shelter.

  • Move quickly!  Don't waste valuable time by trying to see the tornado.  If you wait until you can see or hear it coming, it may be too late.
  • Be sure you're dressed, and don't forget to wear sturdy shoes!
  • Take your cell phone, car keys and identification with you.

    This is EXTREMELY important.  If you are outside, get inside.  If you're already inside, get as far into the middle of the building as possible.  Get underground if possible.  If you cannot, go to the lowest floor possible.  Flying and falling debris are a storm's number one killer.  Use pillows, blankets, coats, helmets, etc. to cover up and protect your head and body from flying debris.

  • DO NOT seek shelter under a highway overpass.  They are not safe!
  • DO NOT open doors or windows.  This does not help!
  • DO NOT go outside to find the tornado, even if you think it's far away!


Know The Current Forecast

Our main job at the National Weather Service is to issue watches, warnings and other information to help keep you safe when hazardous weather threatens.  Your best defense against dangerous storms is to have a plan of action, and to pay close attention to local weather information.

How the National Weather Service Keeps You Informed

Your chances of receiving a severe weather warning depend on where you are, what you're doing and the time of day the warning is issued.  If you are at home watching local television, and have a weather radio, chances are you will know severe weather is headed your way.  If you sleeping, traveling, shopping, working, attending a sporting event or other outdoor event, not watching local television or otherwise not paying attention to your local weather, you may not ever receive the warning.

A single warning could turn out to be the most important warning in your life.  Knowing how to get information and having multiple ways to hear a warning can help increase the chances you'll hear the warning when it matters most.  Don't rely solely on one method to receive a warning!

The National Weather Service's main job is to issue warnings and other weather information service to help protect life and property. It's important to understand the different types of information available to be able to take full advantage of these critical weather information services.  The table below briefly explains the three primary ways we have to inform you about upcoming severe weather - outlooks, watches and warnings.


Product What It Means You Should...
Hazardous Weather Outlook Will there be severe thunderstorms or tornadoes today or tonight, or several days from now? If severe weather is expected, check back for later forecasts, information and possible watches.
Tornado or Severe Thunderstorm Watch There's a good chance of large hail, damaging winds, and maybe even a tornado in the watch area within the next few hours. If the watch includes your county, or one close to you, you should really start to pay attention to what's going on. If there are storms nearby, check your weather source to see if there are warnings.
Significant Weather Advisory A storm with hail around 1/2" but less than 1" hail and/or gusty winds of 50-57 mph has been seen, or indicated on radar. You should move inside or seek shelter, closely monitor the strong storm, and be ready to take action if a warning is issued.
Severe Thunderstorm Warning A storm with large damaging hail and/or damaging winds has been seen, or indicated on radar. Listen closely to the warning - it will tell you what exactly to expect (hail size and wind speed).
Tornado Warning A tornado has either been seen, or there are signs on radar that a tornado could be forming. If you're in the warning area, NOW is the time to put your safety plan into action.
Severe Weather Statement Severe weather statements are issued to update warnings and include new information about an ongoing severe storm. It will provide you with the most up-to-date information on where the severe storm or tornado is located.