Everything to Know About Tornado Safety as Record-Breaking Storms Batter the U.S.

Here are ways to stay safe before, during and after a tornado strikes your area

An onslaught of powerful thunderstorms, flash floods and tornadoes have ravaged the Midwest since last week, with more than 50 tornadoes reported in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana and Nebraska and Idaho.

“I don’t know that any community is fully prepared for this type of devastation,” Dayton Assistant Fire Chief Nicholas Hosford told ABC’s Good Morning America. “We have homes flattened, entire apartment complexes destroyed, businesses throughout our community where walls have collapsed.”

At least seven people have reportedly died as a result of the storms — one in Ohio, two in Oklahoma, three in Missouri and one in Iowa — and a tornado in Ohio’s Montgomery County has left over 80,000 people without power.

Tuesday marked the 12th consecutive day of tornadoes, with at least eight recorded across the continental United States, the New York Times reports. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York have tornado watches and forecasters have warned of severe storms across the country through the week.

Severe Weather
Doral Chenoweth III/The Columbus Dispatch via AP

Here are ways to stay safe during tornado season:

Get Ready and Stay Ready

During tornado season, the National Weather Service advises residents in storm-prone areas to check the forecast often and listen to local news and radio for tornado watches and warnings. The NWS urges the public to continue listening to forecasts before, during and after storms, as another round of thunderstorms could bring more tornadoes.

Create a Plan

The National Weather Service recommends that homes, schools and workplaces have safety plans. According to the NWS, the family plan should include an emergency meeting place and shelter spaces. Officials add, “Pick a safe room in your home, such as a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.”

Multiple Tornadoes Cause Widespread Damage Around Dayton, Ohio
Matthew Hatcher/Getty

Know the Difference Between Alerts

If a tornado is expected in your area, it’s important to know the difference between the alerts, according to the Red Cross. A tornado watch means a tornado is possible. A tornado warning means a tornado is already occurring or will hit soon and you should get to a safe place immediately.

Get to a Safe Place in Your Home

During a tornado, it is best to move to an underground shelter, safe room or basement, according to the Red Cross. However, if those are not available, the safest alternatives are a small, windowless interior room or a hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building.

Missouri tornado damage
Storm damage in Missouri.

Cover Up — Especially Your Head

Whether you are indoors, outdoors or driving, forecasters recommend covering your head with a bicycle helmet if possible, according to the New York Times. If a helmet is not available, cover yourself with a piece of furniture or a sleeping bag or mattress.

After the Storm, Assess the Damages

The National Weather Service recommends checking for property damage in the wake of a storm.

“When walking through storm damage, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes,” officials said. “Contact utilities if you see power lines down and stay away from them. Stay out of damaged buildings. Be aware of insurance scammers.”

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