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Before a Tornado

During any storm, listen to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio to stay informed about watches and warnings.

  • A tornado WATCH means conditions favor the development of a tornado. Be prepared to take shelter.
  • A tornado WARNING means that a tornado has been spotted. Take shelter immediately.

Keep informed on current weather conditions, especially during tornado season.

  • If you are indoors – at home, at work, or even in a vehicle – bear in mind that local radio and television stations may be your best source of tornado warnings. They normally interrupt regular programming to broadcast warnings and watches along with instructions to seek shelter.
  • People in areas where they have a problem hearing outside sirens should consider investing in a weather radio or just an ordinary inexpensive portable radio and remember to keep it on as severe weather approaches. Weather radios are available in several models and price ranges.
  • The National Weather Service posts information on severe weather watches, warnings, and advisories online for the whole United States, with updates every ten minutes.

Prepare for high winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees. Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

Know your community's warning system

Communities have different ways of warning residents about tornados.

  • For Virginia Tech, ensure that your notification information is updated on the Alert System. It provides text and voice messaging and email notifications.
  • Many communities, including the Blacksburg campus, have sirens to signal that people outdoors should seek shelter.

Prepare to take cover

Prepare to find shelter immediately and receive local updates.

  • During tornado season, if you are teaching, hosting or managing any group of people, add checking the weather forecast to your preparation list and announce emergency procedures at the start of your meetings.
  • Persons with mobility concerns should seek shelter at the time of a tornado watch – DO NOT wait for a tornado warning.

Identify a safe room in your home where household members and pets may gather during a tornado. This should be a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor with no windows.

  • Practice periodic tornado drills so that everyone knows what to do if a tornado is approaching.
  • Consider having your safe room reinforced.

Watch for tornado danger signs

  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud, especially if rotating
  • Cloud of debris
  • Funnel cloud – a visible rotating extension of the cloud base
  • Large hail
  • Loud roaring noise, similar to a freight train.

For more information on tornadoes, see: