Tornado Safety

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Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 8:56 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 11:03 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Winds can exceed 250 miles per hour, and damage paths one mile wide and 50 miles long have been reported. They can last only seconds or stay on the ground for an hour, but most tornadoes last less than ten minutes.

On average, tornadoes kill 80 and injure 1,500 people a year in the United States. Most of these people die because they don’t leave their mobile homes or their automobiles for shelter. Flying debris causes the most deaths and injuries.

Although they’re usually associated with spring, tornadoes have been reported in Wisconsin in every month except February.

Watches and Warnings

Tornado Watch

What it means: Severe weather is creating conditions favorable for tornadoes in your area. Tune to WBAY-TV for updated conditions but remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible.

Tornado Warning

What it means: A tornado has been sighted by a trained observer or indicated by radar. Seek shelter immediately.

Tornado Safety

When a tornado is approaching, immediate action can save your life.


Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as you can between you and the storm.

Get under something sturdy, such as a table, desk or counter.

Protect your face and head. Cover yourself with anything close at hand, such as blankets, towels or pillows.

In a home or small building, go to the basement or an interior part of the lowest level, such as a bathroom, closet, or hallway.

Mobile homes, even with tiedowns, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned for sturdy shelter. If there is no shelter nearby, leave the mobile home park and head for low, protected ground.

In a school, shopping center, or public building go to the designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest level are usually best.

In a high-rise building, if there isn’t time to get to the basement go to a small interior room such as a bathroom or hallway.


Find shelter in a sturdy building.

If you’re unable to quickly walk to a shelter, get into a vehicle, buckle up, and drive to the closest sturdy shelter.

Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car! If you run into flying debris while driving, pull over and park. You have two options as a last resort:

  1. Get out and lie flat on your stomach in a nearby ditch or depression covering your head with your hands -- you want to be noticeably lower than the road; the wind will be strong and deafening, but that deadly debris and more intense winds are likely to pass over you.
  2. Stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on and keep your head below the windows. Debris is likely to shatter windows and enter the car. Be mindful that vehicles’ safety equipment isn’t designed for being tossed through the air or pushed into a tree at 120 miles per hour.

Do not take cover beneath an overpass; the wind gains velocity under a bridge.

Facts and Fictions

Fiction: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

Fact: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure, plus it wastes valuable time. Leave windows alone and go to a safe place.

Fiction: Low pressure from a tornado can cause a house to explode.

Fact: The greatest risk of structural damage is from violent winds and debris slamming into buildings.

Fiction: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

Fact: Though geographical features can reduce the risk, conditions that spawn tornadoes can occur anywhere.

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