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Hurricanes and tornadoes: How to weather them safely

July 7, 2018—Summer storm season is here. How prepared are you for severe storms like tornadoes or hurricanes? That's potentially a life-and-death question, since knowing what to do—before, during and after either one—might save your life. To stay safe, here's the knowledge you need.


Before one:

  • Know the terms. A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible. Be ready to seek shelter in a few minutes if a tornado is approaching. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted in your area or is indicated by weather radar. Take shelter right away and follow radio and TV updates.
  • Watch for tornado warning signs. Among them: a dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud that may rotate; and a roar that sounds like a freight train. Take shelter immediately at any of these red flags.

During one:

  • Take cover inside. A small windowless room is best—either in a basement, a storm cellar or the lowest floor possible. Stay away from outside walls. If you can, get in a closet or under a sturdy table. Don't open any windows.
  • Protect yourself outside. If you're in a car, one option is to cover your head with your arms and—if possible—a blanket, coat or other cushion. Be sure your seat belt is buckled. Never get under a bridge or overpass. You're safer in a low, flat location. Flying debris during tornadoes is the main cause of deaths and injuries.

After one:

  • Don't move about if you're trapped. Instead, tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle (if you have one) so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Be cautious. Watch out for debris and downed power lines. And stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local authorities say it's safe.


Before one:

  • Know the terms. A hurricane watch means conditions are possible for a hurricane in the next 48 hours. Review evacuation routes and listen to local officials. A hurricane warning means one is expected within 36 hours. Follow evacuation orders from local officials if they're given.
  • Stay tuned. Listen to radio or TV updates to know whether to stay put—sometimes that's safer—or to evacuate.
  • Prepare your home. At least 18 hours before the storm arrives, bring loose, lightweight objects (such as patio furniture) inside. Cover all your home's windows with exterior grade or marine plywood.

During one, if you haven't evacuated:

  • Stay inside. Even if it looks calm, don't go outdoors. Wait until authorities tell you the hurricane is over. Sometimes, weather calms in the middle of a storm—and then rapidly worsens.
  • Stay away from windows. If you can't, head for a closet.

After one:

  • Don't take chances. If you've evacuated, return home only when authorities say it's safe.
  • Watch out for flooding. Never drive or walk through floodwater. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down. And 1 foot of fast-moving water can sweep a vehicle away. And be aware that floodwater might be electrically charged from downed power lines.

Be ready for any disaster with an emergency supply kit. Here's what to include.


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