More tornadoes occur in the United States than anywhere else on earth.
They’re striking in rural communities in the heart of the country and even in cities like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.
They kill dozens, sometimes hundreds of people every year.
About 1,200 tornadoes strike the United States each year, although they are also seen on every other continent except Antarctica.
If someone strikes near you, here’s how to survive.
The best place to be is inside a sturdy building that can withstand winds of up to 300 mph (500 km/h).
Here are the National Weather Service (NWS) guidelines:
- Enters – Get inside, in the innermost room possible and away from doors and windows
- to come down – to come down. The underground rooms are the best
- cover – Use everything you can to protect yourself from debris, including clothing, helmets, pillows, blankets, and mattresses
Tornadoes hit urban areas, contrary to popular belief.
areas of downtown Nashville, Tennessee; Fort Worth, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah, have all had major hurricanes in the past 30 years.
Should you have a bathtub, walk-in shower, or closet during a hurricane?
Because bathrooms are often located inside homes, some Americans are able to shelter in their bathrooms.
In March 2023, a man and his girlfriend managed to survive a tornado when the dovecote they had taken refuge in was blown through the air, before landing safely in the wreckage of their mobile home in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.
“There is nothing magically safe about getting into the bathtub with a mattress,” says the NWS.
Safes and vaults can provide similar protection, provided they are deep within the building.
The best thing to do is to follow updates from the weather officials. Make sure your phone alarms are turned on.
A quick word on terminology here. A Tornado Watch is usually issued in the hours leading up to a storm.
A tornado warning has been issued after severe weather has already been reported in the area.
Above all, never get caught out in the open during a strong storm.
But what if you get stuck out in the open?
Kelly Cain, from the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, told the BBC that being in a car is no safer than being in an open lot or parking lot.
People often hurt themselves trying to get out of storms.
Such storms can generate soft, ball-sized hailstones capable of shattering windshields.
If you suddenly find yourself outside during a hurricane, try to get inside any kind of structure.
Get down as low as you can – even into a ditch or ditch.
Oh, and try to avoid potential missiles, like your car.
What you should not do
Jacob Hernandez is an amateur storm chaser who grew up in Moore, Oklahoma, a town that has been hit twice by an EF5, the largest type of tornado.
In March 2023, he posted a video of his accidental encounter with an EF4 he was observing in Iowa.
He says it’s a prime example of “what not to do” if you find yourself near a tornado, and he was “embarrassed” by its impending death.
The worst part is getting caught in a tornado’s path (like a dirt road in a small town) with no escape.
“If it looks like it’s not moving and getting bigger, it’s heading straight for you,” he said, remembering the 1,800-foot (500-meter) wide funnel.
Hernandez adds that anyone in an area where tornadoes are expected should know how to get to safety within 60 seconds.
“If you encounter a severe hurricane, I guarantee the hurricane won’t flash first,” he says.