Information is power as tornado season arrives

  • Published
  • By Emergency Management, 788th Civil Engineer Squadron
  • 88th Air Base Wing

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- As the severe weather season approaches, take some time during Severe Weather Awareness Week to make a safety plan for your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Planning ahead will lower the chance of injury or death in the event that severe weather strikes.

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground and is often--but not always--visible as a funnel cloud. Lightning and hail are common in thunderstorms that produce tornadoes.

Tornadoes can cause extensive damage to structures and disrupt transportation, power, water, gas, communications and other services in its direct path and in neighboring areas. Related thunderstorms can cause heavy rains, flash flooding and hail.

Ohio’s peak tornado season is generally April through July, but tornadoes can and have occurred in every month of the year. In 2019, there were 58 confirmed tornadoes in Ohio, causing an estimated $584,895,000 in property damage and 180 injuries relating directly to the tornadoes. 2020 saw 24 confirmed tornadoes, while both 2021 and 2022 had 33 confirmed tornadoes. 

Tornado safety tips

Whether practicing in a tornado drill or sheltering during a warning, the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness encourages Ohioans to:


D—Go DOWN to the lowest level.

U—Get UNDER something.

CCOVER your head.

KKEEP in shelter until the storm has passed.

Before a tornado

• Take responsibility for your safety and be prepared before a watch or warning is issued. Meet with household members to develop a disaster plan to respond to tornado watches and warnings. Conduct regular tornado drills. When a tornado watch is issued, review your plan; don't wait for the watch to become a warning. Learn how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main switches.

• Despite Doppler radar, tornadoes can sometimes occur without any warning, allowing very little time to act. It is important to know the basics of tornado safety. Know the difference between tornado watches and tornado warnings.

• Listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio or to your local radio or television stations for the latest weather and safety information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.

• If you are a person with special needs, register your name and address with your local emergency management agency, police and fire departments before any natural or man-made disaster.

• NOAA Weather Radio has available an alerting tool for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments. Some weather radio receivers can be connected to an existing home security system, much the same as a doorbell, smoke detector or other sensor.

• The safest place to be during a tornado is a basement. If the building has no basement or cellar, go to a small room (a bathroom or closet) on the lowest level of the structure, away from windows and as close to the center of the building as possible.

• Be aware of emergency shelter plans in stores, offices and schools. If no specific shelter has been identified, move to the building's lowest level. Try to avoid areas with large glass windows, large rooms and wide-span roofs such as auditoriums, cafeterias, large hallways or shopping malls.

• Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms. Look for the following danger signs:

o   Dark, often greenish sky.

o   Large hail.

o   A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating).

o   Loud roar like a freight train.

o   If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a tornado

• If you're outside or in a mobile home, find shelter immediately by going to the lowest level of a nearby sturdy building or to a pre-designated area, such as a safe room. Safe rooms and sturdy buildings are the safest structures to be in when tornadoes threaten. Mobile or manufactured homes, even if tied down, do not offer protection from tornadoes.

• If you cannot quickly get to a shelter or get into your vehicle, buckle your seatbelt and try to drive to the nearest sturdy shelter or pre-designated safe room.

• If you experience flying debris while driving, pull over and park. Choose to either stay in your vehicle, stay buckled up, duck down below the windows and cover your head with your hands or find a depression or ditch, exit your vehicle, kneel or lie face-down in the depression and use your arms and hands to protect your head.

• Never seek shelter under highway overpasses and bridges. You are safer in a low, flat location.

• Never try to out-drive a tornado in urban or congested areas. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for protection in a sturdy building.

• Outdoor areas are not protection from flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

After a tornado

• If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle if you have one so that rescuers can locate you.

• Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.

• Check in with family, friends and neighbors by texting or using social media. Save calling on the phone for emergencies. Dial 911 for life-threatening or serious emergencies.

• Watch out for debris and downed power lines.

• Stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local authorities indicate it is safe.

• Use extreme caution during post-disaster clean-up of buildings and around debris. Do not attempt to remove heavy debris by yourself.

• Photograph the damage to your property to assist in filing an insurance claim.

• Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

• If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.

Tornado loss prevention tips

The following steps are suggestions that homeowners should take before a tornado or other natural disaster occurs to assure speedy and hassle-free recovery. The Insurance Information Institute has a web tool that makes conducting a home inventory a breeze. Now you can catalog your possessions online room by room. Once completed, you can add items and photos. Maintaining a comprehensive inventory will come in handy should you need to file a claim or reevaluate the amount of insurance you carry. It's good for renters, too.


Home inventories assist in settling claims

o   Videotape, photograph or compile a written inventory of your home and belongings.

o   Keep the inventory off premises in a bank safe deposit box. The inventory will provide a record for you and the insurance company should a loss occur.

o   Update your inventory every time you move or every two to three years.

Written inventory tips

o   Go through each room of the home and list every item. Include the purchase date, price and model numbers.

o   Include professional, written appraisals of antiques, jewelry and other costly possessions.

Video or photo inventory tips

o   Pan the camera around the room to capture all items. Obtain close-ups of expensive items such as jewelry.

o   Consider grouping items for easier inventory.

o   Narrate the video by noting purchase costs and dates. Include model and serial numbers for appliances and electronic devices.

Auto coverage and preparedness tips

o   If there is threatening weather, shelter vehicles to prevent damage from winds, flying debris and hail.

o   Vehicles are protected under the "other than collision" (comprehensive) portion of an auto insurance policy if damaged by windstorms or hail.

After the loss: insurance tips

o   Photograph any damage and inventory losses. Photos will assist when settling claims.

o   Secure property from further damage or theft and save related receipts since many insurers will reimburse for these expenses.

o   If required to seek temporary housing due to a covered loss such as a tornado, check your policy for "loss of use" coverage. Many policies cover such expenses up to a stated amount.