Surviving a Tornado

Some of these suggestions are based on information viewed on “The Weather Channel” as well as testimony of survivor’s stories on various news stories. There may be additional information available through further research and on “Weather Channel’s website.”  While knowing this info is not a guarantee against surviving a twister, it can increase your chances of making it.


1.      If you are near a tornado and in a car, never try to outrun it.   Get out and find a sturdy building (not a mobile home!) and locate a storm cellar.  Avoid a supermarket as their roof span size can make them more apt to collapse.  If there is not a storm cellar or basement, get as close to the interior center of the building as possible and as low as possible. Avoid being near any windows. Face down on the ground and cover your neck and head.  Create as many walls between you and the outside as possible.  Some have survived throwing a mattress over themselves.  Some have done this in a tub but the tub will not help if the tornado is strong up to the EF 5.

2.      If you cannot find a building or storm cellar, then get into a low-lying ditch.  A common myth is that an underpass is safe, when in fact the shape increases wind to greater speeds than the storm itself and can blow debris in toward you are suck you out.  One survivor mentioned of climbing down inside a pipe hole in the ground and survived an EF-5 tornado that went over him.  Another survivor mentioned climbing into a locking garbage can, the cloud took her, and yet she survived.  That may have just been the right conditions and I do not personally recommend the garbage can.   Again, when in the ditch lay face down and cover your neck and head and get as low as possible.

3.       If you are in a skyscraper, get to a lowest floor and to the interior away from glass and follow the face down routine as described in item (1) as well as making as much protection between you and the outer walls as possible.

4.      Avoid using furniture as this can shatter and become missile fragments that can impale, crush and kill you.  If I had a bomb blanket to throw over me, I would prefer that in addition to a mattress and walling up myself against the storm.

5.      If you are in a car and you see the tornado from a far away distance, look to see what direction it is headed and drive away from it.  I admit they are fascinating to look at but these things are deadly and you need to keep away from them at all costs.  If you are a tornado chaser, then you best have a properly armored vehicle that can stand impacts from hail and debris.  Still, it is a dangerous business so use caution!!!!

6.      When it appears the storm has passed, do not venture outside until officials say it is safe to do so.  Bear in mind there may still be debris falling from the sky.  I personally would wait an additional half hour after the “all clear” before going out.  Be sure to have a battery powered radio and survival kit. (One in the home and one in the car can be a good option.)  In addition, NEVER use candles as a gas leak may be present.  Avoid any downed power lines and get a clear view of what safest path to follow when leaving a demolished home.  Before leaving, if able, take a picture of your property for insurance purposes.


1.      A double-brick house with concrete reinforced between the slabs was strong enough to deflect a wood-beam that penetrated ordinary houses.  Another option you might consider as one fellow did, is to have your house built mostly under ground where the entire house is underground except for the top.  I would prefer to have a house with proper drainage that is underground with ceiling sky windows that can be covered with storm cellar covers and secured.  A sturdy built storm shelter inside and preferably beneath the ground can be used in the meantime for those who prefer neither of the above options.  If you like the underground option, don’t build near a flood prone area, but if you have to choose between a flood and a twister, this is a matter of personal choice and I would prefer the underground or slightly above ground dome option if allowable with an escape route for floods.  This is again my personal choice, not a matter of best advice but I am scared of twisters more than floods and chances are that either way my house may get flooded to the roof, but under the ground perhaps less debris will hit it and tornado blown debris should pass directly over. If deep enough might survive a direct hit with heavier objects.  Talk to an architect and be sure to follow building codes.  If the building codes in your area don’t allow this, I might consider moving and taking the house to where code did allow underground option.

2.      It is a myth that tornadoes avoid big cities and mountains.  A tornado can happen ANYWHERE on the planet.  They are more common in the area known as “Tornado Alley” but we have been even getting them more frequently in California for example.

3.      I signed up for the “Notify! ” through The Weather Channel on my phone where I get a recorded call when severe weather alerts are issued in my area.   Tornadoes are not the only weather that can be deadly; heat waves, rain, lightening storms are just a few to be alert and getting a phone call makes me feel a little more secure.  Still, do not depend on just a call, but if you see the signs in the sky and (the cell tower may be down anyway), take cover the safest way possible.


I encourage further research and talk to the experts that deal with wind and storm safety.  Go on the websites and do as much research as possible as there are always new ideas that can make homes safer.


Keep safe