Severe Weather Tips

Tornado Watch

Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

Tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to know when warnings are issued.

Tornado Warning

A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm.

If severe weather threatens, check on people who are elderly, very young, or physically or mentally disabled.

Severe Weather Safety at Home

Develop a plan for you and your family at home and when outdoors. The American Red Cross offers these tips:

  • Have frequent drills.
  • Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery back-up to receive warnings.
  • Identify a safe place to take shelter.
  • Keep a highway map nearby to follow storm movement from weather bulletins.
  • Know the county in which you live or visit. The National Weather Service issues severe weather warnings on a county or parish basis.

Tornado Safety

These are instructions on what to do when a tornado warning has been issued or when a tornado threatens:

  • In homes or small buildings, go to the basement (if available) or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Wrap yourself in overcoats or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris.
  • In schools, hospitals, factories or shopping centers, go to interior rooms and halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head.
  • In high rise buildings, go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.
  • In cars or mobile homes, abandon them immediately. Most deaths occur in cars and mobile homes. If you are in either of those locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter.
  • If no suitable structure is nearby, lie flat in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head.

Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado such as a dark, often greenish sky, large hail, or a loud roar similar to a freight train.


Lightning can strike up to several miles away from the thunderstorm.

When inside

Avoid using the telephone (except for emergencies) or other electrical appliances.
Do not take a bath or shower.

If Caught Outdoors

  • Avoid isolated trees or other tall objects, bodies of water, sheds, fences, convertible automobiles, tractors and motorcycles.
  • Go to a safe shelter immediately such as inside a sturdy building. A pickup truck or hard top automobile with the windows up can also offer fair protection.
  • If you are boating or swimming, get out of the water immediately and move to a safe shelter away from the water.
  • If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.

Remember, if you can hear thunder then you are close enough to be struck by lightning.


Flash Floods

  • Avoid walking, swimming, or driving in flood waters.
  • Do not let children play near storm drains.
  • If you come upon flood waters, stop, turn around, and go another way. Climb to higher ground.
  • Stay away from high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can knock you off your feet.


  • Flash floods can be deceptive. Flood waters are likely deeper and moving faster than you think.
  • Flash Floods develop quickly.
  • They can occur anywhere, along rivers or creeks, in low water crossings or in a dry stream bed.
  • They can occur during any month and at any time during the day. In fact, flash floods often occur at night when it is difficult to find an escape route.

When driving

  • Act quickly.
  • Avoid low water crossings.
  • Leave your vehicle immediately if it stalls in flood waters.
  • Most cars and light trucks will begin to float in as little as 12 to 2 feet of water.
  • Move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
  • Rising waters make vehicle doors difficult if not impossible to open.
  • Use alternate routes to avoid flood prone areas.


  • Have emergency cooking equipment and flashlights.
  • Install check valves in sewer traps to prevent flood waters from backing into drains in your home.
  • Keep first aid supplies on hand.
  • Keep your automobile fueled. Gas stations may not be able to operate gas pumps for several days after the flood event.
  • Know your flood risk and elevation above flood stage.
  • Maintain a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio or other radio.
  • Maintain a reserve of food that requires little if any cooking and no refrigeration.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs or in other containers. Water service may be interrupted for days.

River Flood Safety Tips

During a river flood, follow these safety tips:

  • Do not attempt to drive over flooded roadways.
  • Follow all evacuation orders.
  • If you come upon a flowing stream where the water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go the other way.
  • Never allow children to play near high water, storm drains or viaducts.

Post Flood Safety Tips

After the flood has ended, many dangers still remain. Remember these safety rules after river floods end:

  • Boil all water before drinking it.
  • Do not visit disaster areas, you may hinder emergency operations.
  • Dry and check electrical equipment before using it.
  • Report downed utility lines to appropriate authorities.
  • Test well water for purity before drinking.
  • Throw out fresh food that comes in contact with flood waters.
  • Use flashlights, not lanterns, torches or matches to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside.