How to Stay Safe From Tornadoes

March 10, 2023

tornadoes in Missouri

Tornadoes can be terrifying, especially when they happen at a time of day when you're most vulnerable. If you live in Missouri or know someone who does, it's important to learn about tornadoes and how to stay safe.

Tornadoes are more common during the spring as temperatures start to warm and air masses clash. This can lead to thunderstorms that bring heavy rain, damaging hail and strong winds.

Tornado Watches

A tornado watch is issued by your local weather office when conditions are favorable for the possible formation of a twister in a certain area. They are typically broader than tornado warnings, covering numerous counties or even states.

A warning, on the other hand, is issued by a local weather service meteorologist when a tornado has been spotted or indicated on radar. It also covers a smaller region, usually around the size of a city or small county.

A tornado watch is usually the most visible tornado warning in your area, and it's always a good idea to be on high alert for tornadoes when they occur. Be sure to review and discuss your emergency plans, check supplies and your safe room, and be ready to act if a warning is issued.

Tornado Warnings

Tornadoes are a very real threat in Missouri, and are most likely to occur during the spring and summer months. They typically develop along dry lines, which separate very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west.

Despite their destructive power, tornadoes can be avoided by following some simple safety rules. When a tornado warning is issued, people should immediately seek shelter.

The best places to shelter are a designated safe room, basement or storm cellar, or the lowest level of the building. Those who are trapped in their vehicles should abandon them and find shelter in the nearest ditch or depression.

A tornado warning is the highest alert level relating to severe weather. It is not to be confused with a tornado watch, which only indicates that conditions are favorable for tornado development.

Taking Shelter

Tornadoes are nature's most powerful and destructive storms. Often accompanied by lightning, heavy rain and hail, they strike quickly, destroying buildings and killing people in seconds.

When tornadoes are near, you should always seek shelter in a basement or storm cellar. If no basement is available, go to a small interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building, such as a closet, bathroom or hallway.

Avoid locations with long spans, such as department stores, grocery stores and shopping complexes. These places can be especially susceptible to wind and debris, particularly in situations where people have to move through the building in a hurry or in large groups.

In addition, you should never take shelter under a highway overpass or bridge, especially if the overpass is nearby or directly hit by the tornado. Those who do take shelter under bridges are typically blown away and battered by flying debris, resulting in fatalities or severe injuries that leave survivors with permanent disabilities.

Severe Weather Preparedness

Tornadoes are one of the most damaging types of severe weather in Missouri. They can quickly change direction and toss cars around like toys, or cause a building to collapse.

Severe weather can strike at any time, anywhere. Taking precautions, such as developing an emergency plan and monitoring tornado watches and warnings, can help prevent injury or death.

Simon said a key to severe weather preparedness is having multiple ways to receive weather updates, including a weather radio. It is especially important to have a weather alert radio in your home when storms are expected at night because those have historically had higher injury and fatality rates than during the daytime.

To be safe, get to a designated safe room -- a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest level with no windows. Do not go to a classroom, cafeteria or gymnasium because these buildings have free span roofs that could collapse in a tornado.


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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