5 Ways to Prepare for a Tornado

Julie H. Case

Low-cost to no-cost, these budget-friendly tornado prep tips can help anyone be better prepared for, and recover from, a twister.

While traditionally peak tornado season stretches from March to June on the Gulf Coast and southern Plains and from March to July in the northern Plains and upper Midwest, as Kentucky and Selma, AL, have shown, tornadoes can occur anytime. And although tornado forecasting has improved, most tornadoes still strike with little advance warning. That’s why preparing your home and surroundings in advance, knowing the essentials for surviving a tornado, and having a plan for where and how to shelter or evacuate will boost your chances of surviving should a tornado spin up. 

Here are five free and low-cost tornado preparation tips.

Prepare a Tornado Safe Room in Your Home

The safest place to be during a tornado is below ground, but if you don’t have a basement or cellar, take cover in a ground-level, ideally windowless room for the entire duration of the storm. Then, if possible, get under something sturdy, such as a heavy table or workbench. 

If possible, stock your safe room with blankets, sleeping bags, or other heavy protective items—even mattresses—that can take cover under. 

Identify a Place to Shelter Outside Your Home

Anyone who lives in a mobile home should evacuate at the first hint of a tornado. Mobile homes provide little protection in a tornado. Instead, identify a neighbor’s home, a nearby building, or a more protected place to shelter. 

If you are outside and cannot reach shelter or there is no shelter nearby, find the nearest culvert, ditch, or ravine away from trees and lie flat in it, shielding your head and neck with your hands.

Remove Potential Projectiles Before Tornado Season

Don’t let objects in your yard pile up or become projectiles during a tornado. Actively remove vegetative debris in the yard and stow or secure toys, lightweight furniture, and other objects that could become airborne in high winds.

Need help with the heavy lifting? Ask a community group or a local high school sports team to spend a day helping out your entire neighborhood.

Memorize the Signs of a Tornado and Track the Weather

Understanding the signs of an approaching tornado is essential. Some of the signs to watch for include a large, dark, low-lying cloud; dark, greenish sky; large hail; and a loud roar that is often described as sounding like a freight train. 

While tuning into community news stations and keeping an eye on your local weather reports is essential during tornado season, tuning into a local NOAA weather radio station can increase preparedness and provide accurate and usable information on the storm’s progress.

To take things a step further, download any of the top weather and alert apps before the storm.

Stockpile Tap Water and Canned Goods for After the Tornado

In the days after a tornado, many communities get short on supplies. Finding bottled water and canned food to get through the early days of recovery can be difficult. 

One low-cost and easy solution is to stockpile tap water by saving sealable containers—like plastic milk and juice jugs—washing them and filling them with water from the tap. Then label each container with the fill date and the words “Drinking Water,” then make sure to replace the bottles six months after filling them. 

As for creating a cache of canned food, simply pick up a few on-sale nonperishable foodstuffs to add to your stockpile every time you go to the grocery. Canned goods, peanut butter, and dried fruits last the longest, but make sure to check expiration dates regularly. Those who shop at food pantries or food banks should consider picking up additional canned and shelf-stable items during their regular visits. 

After a tornado, you can even share stockpiled nonperishables with neighbors or build a free little pantry within the community.

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