Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and more then 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.
In a building, move to a pre-determined shelter such as a basement. If underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Stay away from windows. If you can, cover yourself with a blanket or sleeping bag. In a high-rise building, use the stairs to go to the designated shelter area or an interior room on the lowest floor possible. If caught outside, lie flat in a nearby ditch or depression in the ground. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.
Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air most often in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds and tornadoes. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur along strong frontal systems that form in the central states and move east. Several states may be affected by numerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Tornado Watch - Issued when conditions are favorable for tornadoes to develop. Monitor local radio or TV stations to stay informed and to know immediately if a Tornado Warning is issued.
Tornado Warning - Issued when a tornado has been sighted in the area. Take shelter immediately! Radar technology known as DOPPLER has the ability to detect wind directions that may indicate a tornado and a tornado warning may be issued before one is actually sighted by the public.