Safety During Severe Weather

Destructive, severe weather is a reality in our country, and particularly in the Midwest.

April of each year marks the beginning of the severe weather season. While we cannot eliminate storms, we can take the time now to prepare and get all the facts on how to stay safe when severe weather occurs.

During any severe storm, whether at home or work, you should take shelter as quickly as possible:

  1. Move to the lowest floor that you can safety gain access. (Note: This may be a basement area.)
  2. Stay away from windows, glass doors or other sheet glass (e.g. skylights).
  3. Head to a room or area surrounded by interior walls (e.g. bathrooms, hallways).
  4. Get under a desk with the opening under the desk facing way from windows or glass doors.


Severe Thunderstorm Straight-line Winds:

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of strong thunderstorm winds, known as straight-line winds; they can reach speeds of 100 - 150 mph. Hurricane-force winds start at 74 mph!
  2. If a severe thunderstorm warning contains hurricane-force wind speeds, seek shelter immediately (as you would for a tornado situation).
  3. Stay away from windows and go to the basement or interior room/hallway. Do not use electrical appliances!
  4. Be aware that tall trees near a building can be uprooted by straight-line winds; that tree can come crashing through the roof of a home and cause major injuries.
  5. Powerful straight-line winds can overturn a vehicle or even make a person air-borne when they reach over 100 mph!
  6. One type of a straight-line wind event is a downburst, which is a small area of rapidly-descending, rain-cooled air and rain beneath a thunderstorm. A downburst can cause damage equivalent to a strong tornado!


  1. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or a pre-designated storm shelter. Go to the lowest level of the building (preferably in a basement), and get under a heavy desk or workbench or sit next to the wall and cover your head with your arms/hands. Your best bet is to have a safe room in the basement.
  2. If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room/hallway – put as many walls between you and the outside of the building, and stay away from windows. Other possibilities: get into a bathtub, or under a bed or sofa.
  3. Get out of your vehicle! They can easily be tossed around. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle.
  4. If caught outside, lie flat on the ground and cover your head with your hands. In tornado situations, debris settles in roadside ditches or other low areas. If heavy rains fall, these low spots may quickly flood. Therefore, laying down in a ditch may not be your best choice.
  5. Be aware of flying debris; most deaths and injuries are caused by flying debris.
  6. Manufactured homes (mobile trailers) offer little protection, even if tied down. Leave these for a sturdy shelter before the storm approaches.
  7. Do not seek shelter under a highway overpass. Winds blow stronger under the overpass due to the wind-tunnel effect. Additionally, flying debris (glass, wood, metal) can pummel you, and the tornado winds may suck you out from under the overpass.
  8. Don’t waste time opening windows and doors to equalize air pressure differences; this is a waste of time as buildings have enough air leakage to equalize air pressure differences.
  9. Contrary to popular belief, the southwest side of the basement isn’t necessarily the safest place to be; vehicles can be pushed into basements – you can still be crushed no matter where you are in the basement. Even the bricks/stones of a fireplace can crash into the basement and injure you!
  10. Remember, a tornado can occur before there is a visible funnel cloud. A tornado is a violently rotating column of air extending to the ground from the cloud base. You may not be able to see the tornado (the rotating air) until enough debris and dirt get swept into the vortex, and/or the visible funnel cloud develops all the way to the ground.
  11. No place is 100% safe from a tornadoes (except for a designated safe room). With the right weather conditions, tornados can go over or through mountains, lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, bogs, and even downtown areas that have 1000 foot high skyscrapers!

Flash Flood/Flood Safety Tips:

  1. Nearly half of all fatalities in a flash flood involve a person driving a vehicle. Do not drive into a flooded area. Turn around; don’t drown! It takes only two feet of water to float away most cars. It’s amazing how powerful we feel when we get behind the wheel, but don’t do it!
  2. It takes only six inches of fast-moving water to sweep a person off their feet – don’t walk through a flooded area!
  3. If you are camping in a river valley, move to higher ground if thunderstorms with heavy rains are in the area. Do not attempt to drive away.
  4. Do not operate electrical tools in flooded areas!
  5. Most flash flood deaths occur in the middle of the night when it is more difficult to see rising water levels and judge the depth of water covering road surfaces.

Remember, safety begins with you!

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