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Preparing Today for Tornadoes Tomorrow

Tornado season has begun and the American Red Cross is responding to severe storms that have left behind a scene of destruction and devastation. Last week, more than 100 Red Cross disaster workers on the ground in northern Texas delivered more than 10,000 meals and snacks in the immediate aftermath of the tornadoes.

As tornado season continues throughout the next couple of months, it is important for individuals and families to prepare today as these storms tend to strike with little warning. In Texas, while there were thunderstorm predictions, no one was expecting tornadoes that day.

"We want people to think those things through while the sky is blue," Red Cross disaster worker Anita Foster said in an interview with CNN after the Texas tornadoes. "Things like a working flashlight, a first aid kit, a supply of water, and how to look after pets. We wanted to push those messages with more weather coming in."

First, it is important to know the difference between a Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning:

APAT member, Anita Foster, conducting phone interviews and mapping out public affairs response just moments after tornadoes touched down. Photo Credit: Julie Shields/American Red Cross
  • A Tornado Watch means tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans, and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives!
  • A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Tornado warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Go immediately under ground to a basement, storm cellar or an interior room (closet, hallway or bathroom).

Next, to prepare for tornadoes and severe storms, follow these safety steps:

  • During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about watches and warnings.
  • Know your community's warning system. Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados, with many having sirens intended for outdoor warning purposes.
  • Pick a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.
  • Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
  • Consider having your safe room reinforced. Plans for reinforcing an interior room to provide better protection can be found at FEMA.
  • Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.
  • Watch for tornado danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish clouds-a phenomenon caused by hail
    • Wall cloud-an isolated lowering of the base of a thunderstorm
    • Cloud of debris
    • Large hail
    • Funnel cloud-a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
    • Roaring noise

Visit to learn more about tornado safety.