FACT or MYTH: The current average lead-time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes.

March 2017

FACT! According to NOAA, the current average lead-time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes. This means that from the time a warning is issued to the time it is predicted to hit your area, you have 13 minutes to seek shelter. Are you prepared?

While the "peak tornado season" for our region of the country is during May and into early June, tornadoes can occur whenever and wherever conditions are right! Tornadoes can occur in every state in the United States, on any day of the year, and at any hour. With 1,200 tornados hitting the United States each year, killing on average 60 people annually, the need for an effective tornado plan is vital for all families.

What is the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning?

A Tornado Watch is issued by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center by meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 across the entire U.S. for weather conditions that are favorable for tornadoes. A watch can cover parts of a state or several states. Watch and prepare for severe weather and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio to know when warnings are issued.

A Tornado Warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar – time to take cover! Your local National Weather Service office (meteorologists who watch the weather 24/7 over a designated area) issue tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings.This means a tornado has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar and there is a serious threat to life and property to those in the path of the tornado. ACT now to find safe shelter! A warning can cover parts of counties or several counties in the path of danger.

What should you do if you are at home when a tornado warning is issued?

  • Abandon mobile homes. They are not safe, even if tied down. If you live in a mobile home, have a plan before severe weather hits your area. Make arrangements with a neighbor or friend to seek shelter at their home in the event of severe weather.
  • Go to a basement or interior room on the lowest floor. A bathroom or closets without windows or under stairs are recommended shelter locations inside your home.
  • Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or cover yourself with a mattress or blanket. If you have an infant, place them in their car seat in your sheltered area.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • If time allows, gather your prescription medications, wallet and keys.
  • DO NOT open your windows.

Develop a plan for your family so that all members know what to do in the event of severe weather. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing disaster ahead of time helps reduce fear and lets everyone know how to respond during a tornado. We also recommend that you practice your plan with your family.

What should you do if you are NOT at home when a tornado warning is issued?

  • If you are driving, seek shelter at the closest sturdy building. Look for public offices such as your local library, courthouses, or other government buildings where you could seek shelter.
  • If you are in a building that is not your home, follow the disaster plan of that organization or place of business.
  • If you are outdoors, find a culvert, cave, or other low-lying area. Cover your head and find something to hold onto.

While the current average lead-time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes, in almost all severe weather incidents watches are issued much before warnings. We encourage you to take all tornado and severe weather watches very seriously and be prepared to implement your family's disaster plan. Stay alert to changing weather conditions and remain connected to the latest updates issued by your local National Weather Service.

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