National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Weather Safety


   Tornado Safety
   Flash Flood Safety
   Lightning Safety
   Winter Storm Preparedness and Safety


    If this tornado was approaching, would you know what to do? Tornadoes are the most violent atmospheric phenomenon on the planet. Winds of 200-300 mph can occur with the most violent tornadoes. The following are instructions on what to do when a Tornado Warning has been issued for your area or whenever a tornado threatens:
    • IN HOMES OR SMALL BUILDINGS: Go to the basement (if available) or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris.
    • IN SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS, FACTORIES, OR SHOPPING CENTERS: Go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head. 
    • IN HIGH-RISE BUILDINGS: Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.
    • IN CARS OR MOBILE HOMES: Find a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter.
    • IF CAUGHT OUTDOORS: Seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building.  If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
      - Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
      - If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park.  Now you have the following options as a last resort:
      • Stay in the car with the seat belt on.  Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
      • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
        - Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.



    Do you know what to do if you see water crossing over a roadway? Flash floods and floods are the number one weather-related killer in the U.S.  In the picture at right, the man and his child were swept away in their truck by water flowing over a roadway, before being rescued at the last minute.

    Flash flood safety rules:

      • If ordered to evacuate or if rising water is threatening, leave immediately and get to higher ground!
      • Go to higher ground immediately! Avoid small rivers or streams, low spots, canyons, dry riverbeds, etc.
      • Do not try to walk through flowing water more than ankle deep!
      • Do not allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains, or other flooded areas!
      • Do Not Drive Through Flooded Areas! Even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The vast majority of deaths from flash flooding are due to people driving through flooded areas. Water only one foot deep can displace 1500 lbs! Two feet of water can EASILY carry most automobiles!

    Do you know what to do if you are caught in the open during a thunderstorm?  Lightning causes, on average, 54 deaths in the U.S. annually.  Plan ahead and always listen to the latest forecast before heading outside.  And remember: You don't have to be right under a thunderstorm to be at risk--if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck!  If there is a chance for thunderstorms, make sure you have a place of safety in mind if a storm should develop.
      • Avoid using corded telephones (except for emergencies), electrical appliances, and electronic equipment.
      • Do not take a bath or shower.
      • Go to a safe shelter immediately such as inside a sturdy, enclosed building. A hard top automobile with the windows up can also offer protection.
      • If you are boating or swimming, get out of the water immediately and move to a safe shelter away from the water!
      • Avoid isolated trees or other tall objects, bodies of water, sheds, fences, convertible automobiles, tractors, and motorcycles.
      • Bottom line:  There is no safe place outdoors in a thunderstorm!

    Do you know what to do if you are trapped in the middle of a blizzard? If a Winter Storm Watch has been issued for your area, that means that hazardous winter weather conditions (such as snow greater than 6 inches in 12 hours) are expected in the next 12 to 36 hours. You should prepare for the worst now.

      • A working flashlight
      • A battery powered NOAA Weather Radio, radio, or TV
      • Extra food, water, medicine, and baby items
      • First aid supplies
      • Heating fuel (propane, kerosene, fuel oil, etc.)
      • Emergency heating source
      • Fire extinguisher, smoke detector, and a carbon monoxide detector
      • Fully check and winterize your vehicle
      • Keep your gas tank near full
      • Try not to travel alone
      • Let a friend or relative know your timetable for travel
      • Carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit which contains:
        • blankets/sleeping bags
        • flashlight with extra batteries
        • knife
        • high calorie, non-perishable food
        • a small can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water
        • sand
        • shovel
        • windshield scraper
        • tool kit
        • jumper cables
        • water container
        • compass
        • road maps
    • ON THE FARM:
      • Move animals to sheltered areas
      • Haul extra feed to nearby feeding areas
      • Have a water supply available (most animal deaths in winter storms are from dehydration)

    If a Winter Storm Warning has been issued for your area, dangerous winter weather conditions are expected or are already occuring.

      • Find a dry shelter. Cover all exposed parts of the body.
      • Stay in your vehicle!
      • Run the motor about ten minutes each hour. Open the windows a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
      • Make yourself visible to rescuers:
        • Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine
        • Tie a colored cloth to your antenna or door
        • Raise the hood after the snow stops falling
      • Exercise to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
    • AT HOME:
      • Stay inside!
      • If there is no heat:
        • Close off unneeded rooms
        • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors
        • Cover windows at night
      • Eat and drink non-alcoholic beverages. Food provides the body with energy and heat. Fluids prevent dehydration.
      • Wear layers of loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing.