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Tornadoes are widely considered nature’s most violent storms – carrying winds up to 300 miles per hour that can level buildings and carry cars 80 feet or more through the air. They are also often accompanied by flash floods, hail, heavy rains, and lightning.

When a tornado strikes, your every choice can mean the difference between life and death. Read on to learn some tips on how to prepare for and survive a tornado. (h/t to

Move immediately to an underground shelter whenever possible

  • At the first sign of a tornado, or if a tornado warning has been issued, stop whatever you’re doing and seek appropriate shelter immediately, even if you don’t see a tornado.
  • An underground tornado shelter or a specially designed tornado-safe room is the safest place to be during a tornado. Some homes, businesses, and schools in areas prone to tornadoes have these shelters. (Related: Survival 101: Reasons to set up a safe room or storm shelter.)
  • If a tornado shelter is not available, go to the basement of a building. Stay away from windows, and cover yourself with a mattress, cushions, or sleeping bags. If possible, get under a heavy table that can protect you from falling debris.
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Stay in a windowless room on the lowest level if you can’t go underground

  • In a building with no basement, avoid windows and go to the lowest floor. Alternatively, seek shelter in a small room that is located near the center of the house, under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows.
  • Regardless of where you are, crouch low to the ground or lie down, face down, and cover your head with your hands and arms. Take cover under a strong table if possible, and cover yourself with a mattress, cushions, or blankets.
  • Bathrooms can be particularly effective because they are fortified by pipes and you can lie in a bathtub.
  • Stay out of elevators, as you could be trapped in them if power is lost. Instead, use the stairs to descend to the lowest floor.

Know where NOT to seek shelter

The following locations should be your absolute last resort during a tornado, as they all have the potential to be severely damaged by high winds:

  • Buildings with flat, wide roofs, such as cafeterias, gyms, etc.
  • Mobile homes
  • Open rooms with lots of windows
  • Tall buildings

Remain in your shelter until the danger of tornadoes has passed

  • Keep in mind that multiple tornadoes often form in an area, and it may not be safe to leave your shelter even after one tornado has passed.
  • Even if the last tornado has passed, you should still use common sense. If the surrounding area looks dangerous, it may be safer to remain in your shelter.

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