Tornadoes are one of those natural disasters that seem so potent and so random there is nothing you can do except hope to survive their passage.
While they are incredibly destructive and can spawn from any storm system when conditions are right, there is always something you can do to improve your chances of surviving with a good outcome.
Knowing what steps to take and what skills to develop when getting ready for tornado season, or when traveling to any place where tornadoes are common can it make the difference between life and death.
You might have a few minutes to react to an oncoming tornado, or you might have only seconds, but seconds can count for a lot if you take the correct action.
To help you get ready for twister season we are bringing you a list of six tornado survival skills that you can practice today.
The Most Powerful Wind Events on Earth
When it comes to sheer power, tornadoes take the crown among all the many varied storms that occur on planet Earth.
The most powerful tornadoes can produce sustained wind speeds in excess of 200 mph and are truly cataclysmic for anything that gets caught in their path.
Even lower level tornadoes produce frighteningly potent sustained winds more than capable of damaging and destroying homes and other smaller buildings.
As a tornado grows stronger, the hazards you are facing get ever more dangerous.
You’ll go from toppling trees and missing roof panels to lethal flying debris and even entire automobiles and train cars being carried through the air as if they were made out of styrofoam.
To say the passage of a powerful tornado is a surreal experience, assuming you survive it, is an understatement.
Before the storm, you’ll be facing a foreboding and heavy atmosphere descending on your area.
But, in the aftermath, emerging from your shelter, you will likely be confronted with a landscape that is nothing but a tangled and twisted ruin with hardly one brick left standing upon another.
It is bad enough facing such a situation and having to cope with it, but it is far worse for you and your loved ones to be killed during the event.
There’s not much you can do to combat a tornado, but there is a lot you can do to improve your chances of being alive when the roaring finally stops.
The following section contains six proven tornado survival skills that will help you weather even a deadly twister.
6 Tornado Survival Skills to Practice Today
One of the single best things you can do to improve your chances of surviving a tornado is learning how to identify worthwhile shelters that will give you protection, or at least a degree of protection, from wind and airborne debris.
This is not always easy, and some traditional shelters prove to be less than adequate against the most powerful storms, but with a little bit of information and some quick thinking you’ll always be able to improve your position wherever you are and whatever the circumstances.
Tornadoes have a way of making a mockery of even the strongest structures built by man.
Storms only halfway up the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado strength usually prove more than capable of leveling most residential structures and typical businesses, and stronger ones can even carry buildings away right off their foundations.
This means that residing inside something like a modular home, a mobile home or any other lightweight structure is virtually a death sentence.
What you want to do is head for the strongest interior room of any given building that lacks windows, and always give preference to underground rooms or ones that are partially subterranean in a hillside.
The very best shelters are dedicated, purpose designed and built tornado shelters. Most businesses have such a room somewhere in them, and many societies found in tornado prone regions have them scattered all over town.
You can even install your very own in your basement or accessible via outside somewhere on your property.
It is in your best interest to always keep in mind where the closest, best shelter is during tornado season, and have one picked out when a tornado watch is issued.
Make it a point to locate the best tornado shelter wherever you happen to be when you are traveling.
Taking Cover in a Hurry
Thanks to advances in meteorology and weather detection technology, including radar and satellites, we fortunately often have advanced warning of conditions that are likely to form tornadoes and of tornado touchdowns themselves.
However, not all of these complex systems are accurately predicted, or detected in time, and even when likely conditions are announced tornadoes can form with frightening speed and move just as quickly.
Accordingly, when you detect the likely presence of a tornado or hear a tornado warning from any source it is time to take cover immediately.
You might have a few minutes or even just a few seconds before the tornado is upon you. There is no time to delay.
Grab your loved ones, and anyone else that you can help immediately and get into cover before battening down the hatches for the tornado’s arrival.
Depending on the circumstances you might have time to gather some useful survival supplies or you might not, but in any case you can set yourself up for success by stocking your own dedicated shelter with those supplies ahead of time, or at the very least keeping a tornado readiness bag set handily about for instant action.
Speed is of the essence in tornado survival, and there are many, many tragic stories of people being overtaken and killed while seeking better shelter. Sadly, these unfortunate souls were overtaken by the storm before they were in cover.
Don’t let this happen to you and yours. Move with haste towards shelter whenever you suspect a tornado could form or know that a tornado warning has been announced.
One of the worst things that can happen to you is being caught in a tornado while in any motor vehicle.
First, most motor vehicles provide no meaningful protection from airborne debris that is the number one hazard to life and limb associated with tornadoes.
Second, stronger tornadoes may carry away vehicles by the dozen should they be caught in their path.
If this happens to you, your vehicle will be tumbled, battered, lifted high into the air and invariably slammed back down or left to fall to its uttermost ruin with you inside.
Your chances of surviving such an event are almost zero, and though there are some survivor stories of this exact occurrence happening they are of miraculous portent.
Instinctively you might think you are better off with even the meager protection of an automobile body when the winds of change start blowing, but this is misguided.
If a tornado is in the area chances are good you will not be able to outrun it in your car or truck, so you must abandon it and take cover outside of it.
If there’s a nearby building that is suitable or, even better, a designated tornado shelter head for it at best speed.
But, if there isn’t, you are better off leaving your vehicle and taking cover in a ditch or other lowest lying area around.
Lie on the ground face down and cover your head with your arms and then wait for the tornado to pass.
Of note, you should never, ever take cover under an overpass as has sometimes been suggested in the past.
Overpasses do not provide meaningful protection from wind or airborne debris, and studies suggest that they in essence serve to funnel both through the space, increasing the likelihood you’ll become a casualty.
Surviving the tornado is only one part of the endeavor you’ll be facing. The other part is extricating yourself from the likely rubble of your home or other shelter once it has gone by.
Since tornadoes can inflict terrible devastation, it is highly likely you’re going to need to employ creative techniques to free yourself and your family.
Homes can collapse on top of the basements they are built over. Debris of all kinds could come to rest over the hatch of a shelter.
A structure could be shifted just enough to wedge a door shut or otherwise render it immovable. There is just no telling what might trap you inside your safe space, creating another nightmare you’ll have to sort out.
It is beneficial, then, to learn how to extricate yourself and others from such a situation without making things worse.
Damaged structures are notorious for collapsing when people start messing and tinkering with them, and you definitely don’t want to further imperil your life or anyone else’s while trying to help.
The right tools are a major asset here, with wrecker bars, pry bars and even various power tools or heavy equipment if you can get your hands on it highly worthwhile.
Remember that the most powerful of the simple machines you can make use of in pretty much any circumstances is the lever, and a strong length of wood or metal pipe could prove to be enough to shift a weight that is trapping you and your family.
Physical fitness is not so much a discrete skill as it is an essential characteristic for tornado survival.
The rigors of surviving the storm and the necessary tasks that you will have to attend to after it is over means you’ll need every ounce of strength and endurance your body can muster if you want to make it through.
For that reason, it pays to keep yourself in good shape at all times.
Stronger people are more useful and harder to kill in all circumstances, and the longer you can keep going the greater an asset you will be both for yourself and for your loved ones.
Any physical fitness plan that is emphasizing survival, particularly tornado survival, should be focused on cardiovascular endurance and sheer strength since the only tools you might have to take advantage of in the aftermath could be your own two hands.
The tasks you are called on to handle might take absolutely everything you’ve got to accomplish, but you’ll be glad you are able when the time comes.
The more sweat you put in now the less blood and anguish you’ll have to shed later after a tornado.
Storm awareness is a crucial skill for staying safe and giving yourself time to react when in tornado country or tornado season.
Although tornadoes can be unpredictable and sometimes up here without warning, it never fails that there are some common markers that are indicative of conditions likely to spawn tornadoes or of an active tornado on the ground.
Learning to recognize these signs will give you a major advantage.
First, tornadoes almost invariably spawn out of an existing, powerful thunderstorm system. Chances are you won’t have much to fear from tornadoes during clear, calm days.
Second, certain meteorological features indicate the likely presence or imminent formation of a tornado.
Among them, any sign of circular rotation in a cloud layer is an immediate warning sign that should send you scurrying for cover, as is the sudden cessation of rainfall.
Do note, however, that many tornadoes are concealed by driving bands of rain that mask their appearance.
If there is a lack of rain, listen for a howling, freight train-like sound that is characteristic of active tornadoes on the ground. If you hear this roaring sound, especially if it is growing louder, take cover at once.
Lastly, many tornado survivors report strange colored skies immediately preceding the arrival of a tornado.
Anytime the sky has a yellowish or greenish hue you are probably in for a serious storm if not a tornado outright.
This color is due to soil and other particulates being lifted high into the air where they tint the light of the sun. If you notice this ominous hue in the sky, don’t wait, take cover.
By staying alert to the characteristics of tornadoes and the storm systems that are likely to produce them you’ll maintain situational awareness even in circumstances where you don’t have access to weather alerts.
Practice These Skills Today
Tornadoes are terrifying, powerful storms that produce wide paths of total destruction and can prove to be quite deadly.
There is not much that man can do to hinder such an event but with the right skills and proper procedures it is possible to greatly improve your chances of survival during one of these powerful twisters.
Learn and practice the six skills outlined above on this list and you’ll be better prepared for coping with tornado season.