How to Protect Yourself and Your Family From Tornadoes in Tennessee

March 10, 2023

tornadoes in Tennessee

Tornadoes are a natural part of life in Tennessee, but they can be dangerous. That's why it's important to know how to protect yourself and your family from tornadoes.

Forecasters in Tennessee face a number of challenges when trying to warn the public about severe weather, including the fact that most tornadoes occur at night. That's why University of Tennessee assistant professor Kelsey Ellis and her colleague Lisa Reyes Mason are trying to find ways to make people safer during severe weather.

Weather Conditions

Tennessee has a high risk for tornadoes throughout the year, but they’re most likely in February, March and April. In addition, Middle and West Tennessee are more prone to severe thunderstorms.

The National Weather Service issues rolling 8-day tornado outlooks, highlighting areas that may be affected by storms. Meteorologists use these and other data to prepare for severe weather and issue warnings.

During a storm, have a plan in place for how you will protect yourself and where you will go in case of an emergency. Also, check your local TV station for updates and information on how severe the weather will be.

The National Science Foundation is funding a program called PERiLS that’s trying to understand the physics of tornado formation in the United States. Their hope is to better predict these squall line storms and save lives.

Signing Up for Weather Alerts

Tornadoes are a serious threat to our nation, and Tennessee is no exception. In fact, it ranks third in tornado fatalities and is a frequent victim of these powerful storms.

If you live in an area vulnerable to tornadoes, sign up for weather alerts so you can stay informed about storms and their impact. There are a number of ways to receive these warnings including through your phone, text message, and fax machine.

There are also apps you can download that will help you stay aware of severe weather. Some are free, while others charge a small fee.

The best way to be safe is to learn how to shelter in place. This can include a basement, storm shelter, or designated space in your home. Make sure all members of your family know how to find this space and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Staying Safe

Tornadoes are no stranger to Tennessee, and this spring storm season will bring an increased threat as changing temperature conditions cause tornadoes to become more common. While most severe thunderstorms develop in the spring and fall, tornadoes are possible any time of year.

If traveling during a severe weather outbreak, stay informed by listening to local news, using a NOAA Weather Radio and signing up for emergency alerts through WKRN. You’ll know when a storm is on the way and can make informed decisions about where to go, how to stay safe and what to do if you’re displaced.

If a tornado is nearby, seek shelter in an interior room away from doors and windows. Keep in mind that the lowest level of a building is normally the safest place to be, so find an interior bathroom or closet on the ground floor if available.

Taking Action

Tornadoes are a severe weather hazard in Tennessee, and they can cause a lot of damage. Municipalities need to be prepared for tornadoes by educating their constituents, building and retrofitting infrastructure with tornado resistant materials, encouraging residents to have the proper insurance coverage, and having a plan to respond to a tornado event.

In Tennessee, tornadoes form when warm, moist air collides with colder, windier air in the upper atmosphere. They then converge to create a rotating funnel cloud that is capable of causing widespread devastation.

Several recent studies of tornado risk perceptions have shown that people in urban areas underestimate the risk of tornadoes, even when they calculate it based on historical data. However, a study in rural areas found that participants were more likely to under-estimate the risk of tornadoes when they did not have previous experience with a tornado.

The purpose of this study is to interrogate how experiences and beliefs influence tornado preparedness decisions among members of the general public in a middle Tennessee area where an EF0 - EF4 tornado outbreak occurred in March 2020. Additionally, this study examines how hazard communication occurs among diverse stakeholders.


Tornado Dave is the best place to learn more about severe weather and climate science. He's a veritable tornado of information, and he loves nothing more than educating others about the importance of being prepared for extreme weather events. Make sure to check in with Tornado Dave often, as he's always updating his blog with the latest news and information!
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