Tornado / Thunderstorm
Health and Safety Tips
Safety | Thunderstorm Safety
| After the Storm
Tornado Safety Guidelines
Key Weather Terms:
TORNADO WATCH - Conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms
with the potential of tornadoes.
TORNADO WARNING - Tornado has been sighted or detected on radar. If a Tornado Warning
is issued, TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.
Listen to radio, television, or weather alert radios for National
Weather Service bulletins. Weather Alert Radios receive broadcasts and
alerts from the Madison National Weather Service station and are
available at most electronics dealers.
Tornado Safety Tips
Most tornado damage is caused by violent winds, and many injuries and
deaths result from flying debris. When a tornado threatens, taking
immediate action can save your life! STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS, DOORS, AND
OUTSIDE WALLS. PROTECT YOUR HEAD. In homes and small buildings, go to
the basement or to an interior part on the lowest level such as closets,
bathrooms or interior halls. Get under something sturdy. Do not leave the
building until the storm has passed.
In schools, nursing homes, hospitals, factories, and shopping centers,
go to pre- designated shelter areas. Interior hallways on the lowest floor
are usually best. Avoid auditoriums, gymnasiums, or other structures
with wide, free span roofs.
In high rise buildings, go to interior small rooms or hallways.
In vehicles or mobile homes, leave them and go to a substantial
structure. If there is no shelter nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch,
ravine, or culvert with your hands shielding your head.
In open country, lie flat in the nearest ditch or ravine with your
hands shielding your head.
Note: Take a portable radio and flashlight with you when taking
Tornado Definition and Characteristics
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air which comes in contact
with the ground. Tornadoes vary greatly in size, intensity, and
appearance. The average movement of a tornado is 30 mph, but speeds of 70
mph have been reported. Wind speeds of between 100 to over 300 mph are
possible. The width of a tornado may range from a few yards to over a
mile; the path of a tornado may range from a few hundred yards to hundreds
Wisconsin Tornado Facts
Season: Wisconsin's tornado season generally runs from April
through September. The greatest numbers of tornadoes have occurred
in May, June, and July. Wisconsin averages more than 20 tornadoes per
year, although in 2005, there were more than 60 tornadoes in our state.
Time of day: The majority of tornadoes have struck during mid
afternoon or early evening (3 p.m. 7 p.m.). However, tornadoes may strike
at any time, potentially with little or no warning. The devastating
Barneveld / Black Earth twister occurred around 1 a.m. without warning.
Movement: Tornadoes usually move from the southwest to the
northeast; however, direction of travel may be erratic and change
Tornadoes are only one of many thunderstorm hazards. Others include:
- Lightning-- Kills and injures hundreds annually and starts fires.
- Winds-- Very strong, gusty winds can cause property damage.
- Rain-- Heavy downpours may result in flash floods.
- Hail-- May be very damaging to property and crops.
The following are general safety tips to follow during thunderstorms:
- Keep calm. Thunderstorms are usually of short duration; even squall
lines pass in a few hours. Stay indoors.
- Listen to radio, television or weather alert radio for National
Weather Service bulletins.
- When a thunderstorm threatens, get inside a home or large building,
or inside an all metal (not convertible) vehicle.
- Avoid using the telephone, except for emergencies.
If outside, with no time to reach a safe building or an automobile,
follow these rules:
- Do not stand underneath a natural lightning rod such as a tall,
isolated tree in an open area.
- Avoid projecting above the surrounding landscape as you would do if
you were standing on a hilltop, in an open field, on the beach, or
fishing from a small boat.
- Get out of and away from open water.
- Get away from tractors and other metal farm equipment.
- Get off of and away from motorcycles, scooters, golf carts and
bicycles. Put down golf clubs.
- Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes, rails and
other metallic objects which could carry lightning to you from some
- Avoid standing in small isolated sheds or other small structures in
- In a forest area, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of
- In open areas, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley. Be
alert for flash floods.
If you're hopelessly isolated in a level field or prairie and you feel
your hair stand on end indicating lightning is about to strike, squat low
to the ground, on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees
with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible
and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.
Service (exit DHS), Wisconsin Emergency Management
(exit DHS), and Federal Emergency
Management Agency (exit DHS) publications.
After the Tornado / Storm
Be Aware of Physical
Water and Food Safety
If your well service is disrupted, only use water from a known safe source.
Test your water for bacteria when power/service is restored before consuming.
For testing information, contact your local public health department.
- If you, or someone you know, is in need of crisis counseling services
or may just want someone to talk to, contact your local social/human services staff.