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How to Prepare for Tornado Season

The 2022 tornado season started with an active early spring, but stopped almost immediately during the late spring and summer. Last year, there were 1,329 preliminary tornado reports (above the 1991-2010 U.S. annual average of 1,251 tornadoes) with the months of March, April, May, June and November each recording 100 or more tornadoes.

From 2010 to 2021, each tornado storm resulted in an average of 2.5 million U.S. dollars in property damage

While there’s nothing you can do to stop a tornado from storming through your neighborhood, there are plenty of ways to prepare your property and keep your family safe during a twister.

Please don’t wait until the last second to prepare for a tornado: our guide on preparing for tornado season provides everything you’ll need to know to best protect yourself and your family from these deadly storms.

How Are Tornadoes Formed?

A tornado is a “narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground,” but tornadoes do not always look like they do in the movies.

Due to the wind being invisible, there is a chance that you won’t see it unless it forms a “condensation funnel made up of water droplets, dust, and debris.”

A tornado forms inside a supercell thunderstorm, but not all thunderstorms cause tornadoes. Eventually, cool air wraps itself around the tornado, cutting itself off the warm air and finally shrinking the vortex until it dissipates.

While some areas are more likely to be struck by a tornado, as long as the conditions are right, they can occur anywhere.

Where Do Tornadoes Typically Occur?

The most common locations for tornadoes include the “central plains of North America, east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the Appalachian Mountains.”

Tornado Alley is located in the Great Plains of the United States, including “Oklahoma, Kansas, the Texas Panhandle, Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, and eastern Colorado.” Still, many scientists believe that the tornado alley label is outdated.

That’s partly because tornadoes are becoming more and more frequent in “Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and even into the Carolinas.” These storms cause just as much damage and destruction as those occurring in tornado alley.

In fact, according to research by the Insurance Information Institute, “of the top 10 states with the most tornadoes in 2020, only one — Texas — is officially a part of Tornado Alley.”

While there are areas of the United States more likely to be hit by a tornado, they can strike anywhere with the right conditions. It’s essential to pay attention to the weather alerts during a storm to protect yourself, your family, and home.

When is Tornado Season in 2023?

While tornadoes can occur year-round, most occur alongside thunderstorms during the summer months, peaking in May and June. 

Tornado season 2023 is already off to a fast start with 220 tornadoes reported in the U.S. between January and February. Forty-nine of those tornadoes touched down first in Alabama.

Due to the third most active start to a tornado season in over 70 years, meteorologists and scientists are bracing for another year of dangerous tornadoes as they predict that this past winter was just the beginning for storm season.

It’s important to remember that there’s a second tornado season in America, running from late October to mid-November. This is caused by a seasonal change and alternating cold and warm weather. 

The spring tornado season directly affects the American Midwest, while the second tornado season more commonly affects the Atlantic Coastal plain.

What is the Difference Between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning?

Your local television and radio stations are the best place for information about an upcoming storm. During television programming, watches and warnings flash on the bottom of the screen while radio stations announce any updated news from NOAA and the National Weather Service.

But what is the difference between a watch and a warning?

Tornado watches are issued by the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and “are meant to alert the public of a developing threat for tornadoes and indicate the need to be prepared and remain vigilant.” A watch typically involves broad swatches of land where conditions for a tornado exist.

A tornado warning is issued by local officials and the National Weather Service, and these are more urgent and ask people to seek shelter immediately. Warnings are issued “minutes before a tornado strikes for highly localized areas where a tornado is imminent or has been detected on radar.”

Staying aware of ongoing warnings and watches protects you from dangerous, imminent natural weather threats.

How Long Do I Have to Prepare for a Tornado?

The current average lead time for a tornado warning is 13 minutes, and that isn’t much, which means preparation and planning go a long way towards securing your family’s safety.

How Should I Prepare for a Tornado?

Whether you are responsible for protecting your family, home, employees, students, or others, you should have a plan to ensure safety during a tornado.

Monitor the weather. 

Stay alert to changing weather conditions by listening to powered radio coverage, such as an NOAA weather radio, or tuning into television newscasts for the latest tornado watch or thunderstorm information.

Local channels provide the best and most up-to-date weather information.

Plan communication methods. 

Keep significant numbers written down in your wallet, send text messages instead of calling, and consider using social media to keep others informed. 

During an emergency, think about picking up some emergency two-way radios in the event of separation.

Establish a safe location. 

The location can be at home, at work, or at school. This should be a basement, storm cellar, or an interior room on the lowest level with no windows in the event of a tornado.

Make sure wherever your safe location is, you can get there within 13 minutes or less. Also don’t forget about including a family plan showing how to get to the safe location. A practice run or two during the week is a good idea.

The more established and routine your safe location is, the easier it will be to get there in a time of crisis.

Invest in an emergency kit.

While it’s impossible to control the occurrence of tornadoes, investing in an emergency kit for tornadoes is invaluable in a disaster.

It would be best if you were prepared with the necessary survival supplies so you and others can survive without power and other everyday comforts in days after severe weather.

Make sure it’s marked, and everyone who might need it knows where to locate it. 

Teach others basic first aid. 

Show others in your group how to administer basic first aid, use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity. 

A proper first aid kit is crucial given the risk of flying debris during a tornado.

Stock up on emergency supplies, including food and water. 

Families should set aside one gallon of water per day for each person and a three-day supply of food per person.

Include short and long-term dehydrated food options such as canned or emergency dried foods, tuna, crackers, or high-calorie food bars.

Protect your supplies. 

If the safe zone isn’t a large space, make sure to have a compact, durable and protected place for all of your supplies.

Include hygiene and sanitation items. 

This includes biohazard bags, toilet paper, and moist towelettes, all of which are necessary for any emergency kit.

Plan for necessary medications. 

Make sure those who are on medication have it easily accessible to them.  

Need Emergency Supplies? LifeSecure Has You and Your Family Covered.

Tornadoes are destructive, dangerous, and can strike anywhere at any time. Our guide to tornado safety emphasizes preparedness as the best protection against unpredictable tornadoes.

Prepare yourself with our collection of emergency kits, NOAA radios, and food/water supplies. LifeSecure’s items are hand-packed and designed to keep you and your family safe during any natural disaster.

David Scott
David co-founded LifeSecure in 2005, just a few months before Hurricane Katrina taught everyone that one can go hungry and thirsty in America and even die before help arrives. For over a decade David has focused on developing and discovering superior emergency and disaster survival solutions - kits and supplies. He has trained community groups in emergency preparedness, helped non-profit organizations prepare emergency kits for needy individuals, conducted community emergency response exercises, and developed emergency plans for non-profit organizations. David makes an ongoing study of how best to prepare for and respond to various natural and man-made disasters, and his mission has been to help others “live Life SECURE” every day by preparing for what may come someday.