How to Prepare for a Tornado or Twister

Tornadoes are considered the most violent type of atmospheric storms. A strong tornado destroys everything in its path as it covers the ground.

It is incredibly important to prepare for a tornado, and not just during your region’s tornado season. While meteorologists and radar systems are helpful in predicting a tornado, it can form and leave a path of destruction in a short window of time.

Levels of a Tornado or Twister

Tornadoes and twisters are graded using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale. Each damage indicator has eight degrees of damage, ranging from visible to complete destruction. Tornadoes are classified as follows:

EF-0

EF-0 tornadoes are considered the weakest of all, with wind speeds between 65 and 85 miles per hour. These are ranked as “gale,” indicating strong winds. These storms can cause superficial or cosmetic damage to buildings.

EF-1

Also considered weak, an EF-1 tornado has winds speeds between 86 and 110 mph. EF-1 tornadoes are ranked “moderate” with winds stronger than gale level winds. Although they are considered weak, these storms can still cause significant damage.

EF-2

These strong tornadoes have wind speeds between 111 and 135 mph. They are considered “significant” in terms of their winds and potential to cause damage to the surrounding environment. EF-2 tornadoes are strong enough to cause roof loss and lift vehicles off the ground.

EF-3

EF-3 tornadoes come with strong winds blowing between 136 and 165 mph. These tornadoes are considered “severe,” posing serious risk to life. Sturdy structures may lose their outer or inner walls while unanchored homes can be lifted and thrown as projectiles.

EF-4

These tornadoes are classified as “violent,” with devastating winds reaching between 166 and 200 mph. Overall, these storms are powerful enough to obliterate well-built structures and lift airplanes off the ground. Most individuals taking cover from an EF-4 tornado must be in a designated storm shelter.

EF-5

EF-5 tornadoes are also classified as violent, with wind speeds reaching beyond 200 mph. This is the top of the EF-Scale, as destruction is almost always total.

Generally, EF-5 tornadoes can level steel structures and carry debris for miles. Fortunately, these storms are rare. Less than 0.01 percent of all U.S. tornadoes are categorized as EF-5.

Tornado Watch

This entails meteorologists keeping a close eye on the weather and seeking favorable conditions for a tornado.

Tornado Warning

This is issued by local broadcasters when a tornado has either been spotted or marked on radar. Whenever there is a tornado warning, listen continuously to keep abreast of storm developments.

Prep an Emergency Kit for a Tornado or Twister

Every natural disaster requires a bit of planning and preparation. Tornadoes are no different. It is important to prepare for a twister not only because they threaten lives and structures, but because they also come and go in a short period of time.

Related Article: How to Prepare for a Flood

Preparing for a tornado can save your life, as well as your home. To prepare yourself, your home and your family for a tornado, include the following items in a tornado emergency kit.

Food

Stock enough food to feed everyone in your household for a minimum of three days. If you do not have the convenience of knowing when a tornado is slated to hit, keep a variety of non-perishable food items on hand.

In terms of dry foods, keep rice, pasta, crackers, nuts, meal replacement bars, beef or turkey jerky, dried fruits, pretzels, chips and seasoning. Canned foods and meals to have on hand include tuna, chili, soups, beans, corn, yams, green beans and other vegetables.

Perishable food items that only last for a few days include bread, eggs and cold cuts. You can also opt for freeze-dried meals or meals ready to eat (MRE), which are available for bulk purchase online, at sporting goods or at military supply stores.

Water

Have at least one gallon of potable water per person, per day for at least three days. Typical guidelines advise a person to drink two quarts of water per day, while using the other two quarts for cleaning purposes.

Use plastic or glass containers to store the water. For best results, store as much of your clean water in the freezer and refrigerator.

If you know a storm is coming, fill the bathtub with water. This can be used to flush the toilet, clean or provide drinking water as needed. Clean water is essential to survival, so store as much of it as you can in a protected, easy-to-reach area.

Supplies

In addition to food and water, you will need various supplies to aid you through a tornado. Keep tools stored in your home in a safe, dry area.

Keep a hammer, screw drivers, utility knife and various other tools that meet your preparation or repair task needs. Also, keep cutlery and a manual can opener readily available to access your non-perishable food stores. Special storm supplies include:

  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Hand-crank radio
  • Solar cellphone charger
  • Lanterns
  • Gas grill and extra gas canisters

Do not neglect utensils, cookware, disposable plates, napkins and cleaning supplies. Other items you may want to gather in your kit include power inverters and generators, headlamps, gloves and boots.

If you have waterproof overalls and other clothing made for wet conditions, have those handy as well. Put all of your important paperwork, such as insurance papers and birth certificates, into a plastic protective sleeve and place it in a waterproof container.

Reinforce Your Home for a Tornado or Twister

Reinforcing your home may be the factor that saves you from unequivocal devastation. No amount of pre-emptive tornado preparation measures will ensure your family’s safety against a highly rated twister, but it is better to reinforce your house than to take chances. Consider the following measures when reinforcing your home against an impending tornado.

Doors

If you have the funds for them, reinforced doors are an option. Purchase them online or through independent contractors. Stronger than your average door, many FEMA-approved doors resist damage from heavy debris flying at up to 250 miles per hour.

Windows

Windows are the most vulnerable parts of your home because they are fragile and susceptible to damage from flying debris. At the very least, use duct tape to help keep them intact if they happen to shatter.

The next solution is affixing sheets of plywood over your windows to protect the glass. Screw them directly into the concrete structure of your home using concrete screws (tapcons).

Overall, the most effective solution is metal shutters. These offer the most protection and are fairly fast and easy to put up once they have been installed. For an even quicker process, install metal accordion-style shutters.

Roof

Tornado winds flow over, under and through faults in a roof. If the wind pressure becomes too much for a roof to remain stable, it will likely strip right off its structure.

To keep your roof attached to the rest of your home, consider adding galvanized-steel hurricane clips. They reinforce the connection between your roof and the rafters, reducing the likelihood of losing your roof.

Emergency Protocols for a Tornado or Twister

When a tornado is on its way, it’s important to have a safety plan in place. Because tornadoes can strike at a moment’s notice, you may not have time to reach a designated shelter or safe zone. If that is the case, designate a safe room in your home to ride out the twister. In any case, this room must be windowless.

If possible, head down to the lowest room of the house. The ideal location is a basement. Otherwise, choose a hallway, bathroom or closet. Stay away from windows, doors and corners. When the storm is passing over your home, get as low to the ground as you can and cover your head with your hands.

Related Article: Renters and Homeowners Insurance

It might also interest you: