readydc

Ready DC
Ready DC

Tornado

A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air extending from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes can strike anywhere, at any time and with little warning. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm and are considered the most violent of all atmospheric storms.  Winds can reach 300 miles per hour and damage paths can be in excess of one-mile-wide and 50 miles long.

It is important to know the difference between a tornado WATCH and a tornado WARNING. A tornado WATCH means conditions are favorable for a tornado; a tornado WARNING means a tornado has been sighted or detected by weather radar.

For more information on tornado hazards, visit:
nws.noaa.gov/om/severeweather/ww.shtml

 

Before

Use the following tips to prepare your home, family, and pets before a tornado:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Build or re-stock your Emergency Kit.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family members may not all be in one place when disaster strikes.  It is important to know how you will contact one another, how and where you will meet and what you will do in case of an emergency. Plan how to communicate if you lose power.
  • Charge your cell phone so you have a full battery. Consider buying a solar or battery powered phone charger.
  • Move your family to the basement.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions, and look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

If you do not have a basement:

  • Go to an inner hallway or small inner room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet, or go to the center of the room. Try to find something sturdy you can get under and hold on to as a shield from flying debris and/or a collapsed roof. Use your arms to protect your head and neck.

 

During

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • If you are at home, go to your basement or a central room on the lower level. Stay away from windows.
  • If you are in a mobile home, get out immediately and go to a pre-identified location such as the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter.
  • If you are outside, find the closest sturdy shelter. If no shelter is available, try to find a ditch or low-lying area. Cover your head with your hands. Do not go under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location. Watch out for flying debris.
  • If you are at work, seek shelter on the lowest possible floor or a basement or in stairwells, bathrooms and closets. Stay away from windows. As a last resort, crawl under your desk.
  • If you are at a mall/store, seek shelter against an inside wall. An enclosed hallway or fire exit leading away from the main mall concourse is a good spot. Stay away from skylights and large open areas.
  • If you are in a public building, go to the designated shelter area or a central room on the lower level. Stay away from windows.
  • If you are at school, seek shelter in inside hallways, small closets and bathrooms. Stay away from windows. Get out of mobile classrooms, gymnasiums, auditoriums and other large rooms.
  • If you are driving, go to a storm shelter or lowest level in a nearby building. If you cannot safely reach a building, stop your vehicle, buckle your seat belt, get as low as possible and cover your head with your arms.

 

After

Use the following tips to help your home, family and pets recover safely after a tornado:

  • Stay Informed through local radio, television or official social media accounts. Download the free HSEMA app or AlertDC to receive updates wherever you are.
  • Wait to get the “all clear” from official information given to you by the District Government that the tornado has gone.
  • If you cannot return home and need shelter, follow the official information given to you by the District Government to find the nearest available shelter in your area.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects touching them. Report downed power lines to the police or utility company.
  • Wear sturdy shoes/boots, long sleeves and gloves when walking or working near debris.
  • Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
  • Communicate with family members and friends.
    • If you have a cell phone, call, text, email or use social media.
    • If you have access to a computer, use an online registry such as the Red Cross website, “Safe and Well”. 
    • If you do not have a cell phone, use social media apps on personal gaming or tablet devices.
    • If you do not have access to technology, go to your pre-designated meeting place for you to reconnect with family members or consider relaying information through friends, family or even your workplace.
  • Check on your neighbors. Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children, the elderly or people with disabilities or access and functional needs.

When checking for damages in and around your home or other structure:

  • Be aware of possible structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards.
  • Shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house quickly. Call 911 to report it and follow up with Washington Gas. Do not light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.

Additional Resources

ready.gov/tornadoes
redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/tornado