Survive a Tornado

Case Study – NOAA Weather Radio saved their lives

Tornadoes are an awesomely powerful force of nature capable of dealing immense destruction. Winds to the tune of around 300 miles per hour will pick up animals in the field, cars, and lots of debris. In fact, a large part of their destructive power is attributed to the flying debris, which is capable of damaging property that is some distance from the tornado itself. A road sign, a motorcycle, or a piece of a backyard fence can become a deadly missile when sucked into the vortex and thrown out again in a random direction.
A tornado will disintegrate anything in its path, often leaving behind only bare foundations. There is also the danger of lightning, rain, hail and flash floods. In short, it’s a force that you cannot pit your power against and hope to survive. You can only hide from it, and we’ll teach you how to do that well.

Tornado classifications /categories:

  • Category F-0 with winds from 40 to 72 mph – not much damage here mostly broken branches, broken windows, etc.
  • Category F-1 winds are more powerful, ranging from 73 to112 mph – the damage here is more extensive, it has enough strength to flip trailers over or even remove them from foundations
  • Category F-2 with winds reaching 113 to 157 mph – a very strong tornado that will demolish sheds, garages and rip trees out of the ground
  • Category F-3 the winds are as fast as 158 to 205 mph, capable of dealing great amount damage, removing rooftops, and knocking down structures
  • Category F-4 very powerful winds, reaching 207 to 260 mph, unbelievable damage, houses get disintegrated
  • Category F-5 extreme winds, between 261 and 318 mph, damage is extreme, as is the power of this tornado, which can lift entire houses. Tornados of this category are, thankfully, seldom seen

Important: when told to evacuate and go to a government shelter, make sure you do it. The professionals have decided that no matter what your situation, it will be safer for you in a designated shelter area. Listen to them.

Tornado Kit

Preparation is the single, most critical step that you can take to increase your chances of survival. Since a tornado strolling through a neighborhood can really rearrange things, preparation in advance is vital, as tornado preparations are impossible when the big twister is about to knock on your door. If you are in an area prone to tornadoes, this becomes common sense. You can complete your tornado kit on your own or buy one that is already assembled for you.

There are different ways of dealing with a tornado, and they all depend on either your level of preparation and your location.

Early Warning

Monitor the weather, if you live in a tornado prone area, you must be familiar with at least one reliable weather reporting service. There are tons of apps for this. Know what radio stations broadcast weather, since you are unlikely to be using a TV for updates when taking shelter in a basement.
I’d like to suggest a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
) Weather Radio



Find out which station broadcasts the strongest signal, which one has the most relevant information.

If you are thinking about buying one, sure to pick one with an audible alert that can wake you up if necessary. When you are out camping, it may be the only warning you get. Check out the story in the following video:

Have a plan

When a tornado is about to knock on your door, you literally have minutes to react, or less. Figure out where to go before the incident occurs, so that you don’t waste time you don’t have on thinking.

Stay away from windows.
A tornado is not only wind, although that alone is often enough to break windows, but in addition to the wind you will also be dealing with the debris picked up by the wind. Much of the debris is capable of flying THROUGH you.

Go low
You need to be on the lowest possible floor, in a location as far away from windows as possible.

Basement as a tornado shelter

The tornado itself is a relatively brief event, the aftermath of which, however, might be lengthy. Some people will, unfortunately, have to deal with picking up the pieces of their lives from the ruin of their households. Some of your possessions may be destroyed, there may be a loss of power, etc.

  • Have some non perishable food put by. Cans are good if you don’t forget to bring a can opener.
  • 3 gallons of water per person for each day
  • Flashlights
    • Each adult should have at least one
    • Children should also have their own survival flashlight, this makes them feel independent and important. Please don’t dismiss this – reducing your childrens’ anxiety is vital, as this will be one more headache dealt with, or at least reduced. (you will have enough to worry about without the screaming kids) I don’t mean to sound insensitive, it’s just the reality of things.
    • One “main” light. Either a high power flash light or camp light – something that will light up the basement and remain in the center. Aside from convenience, this provides a psychological comfort, as it can serve a substitute for a fire to sit around.
    • Glow sticks – especially the ones that can be attached to clothing. Those are good for excursions to inspect the damage, once it’s safe to do so.
    • Candles – a good fallback light source, but only if you are absolutely certain that gas lines are intact.
  • Extra batteries – this is an easily forgotten item. Don’t be the one to forget it.
  • Radio – battery operated or crank operated. There are radios that are hybrids, incorporating a flashlight, radio, solar charging and a cell phone charger. That last one is an excellent addition, since cell phones without power or means to recharge them are only good as paper weights.
  • First aid kits – be sure to modify them according to the medical needs of the family.
  • Plastic bags and zip ties for bio needs.
  • Soap and some towels, moist towelettes – not that you will be super-filthy after a night in the basement, but being clean is a morale booster, and that is priceless.
  • Games for kids to pass the time. Hiding in the basement is unusual and at first it may be exciting, but as time progresses, it will become less so. That is a good time to introduce more of a daily routine – homework, reading, games.
  • Sleeping arrangements – pneumatic mattresses, pillows, etc. Roughing it, especially in the basement of your house will get very old, very fast, so it’s a good idea to make things as comfortable for yourself as possible.
  • Whistle – in order to signal for help
  • Duct tape

Tornado Survival – Case Study

You are NOT safe in:

  • Mobile Home – you are fifteen times more likely to get killed by a tornado when taking shelter in a mobile home. If you are in a mobile home, find safety elsewhere.
  • A Car – tornados are capable of picking up cars. I know it’s hard to believe, but there it is. Try not to think of it as a myth to be tested. If you are in a car and there is a tornado, remembrer this: tornados are unpredictable. One wrong turn and it can catch up to you. And if it doesn’t, the debris certainly can. Concrete is your friend.
  • Outside, where there are flying tree trunks.