Thunderstorms and Tornadoes
Severe storms strike quickly. Thunderstorms can produce heavy rain, strong winds, lightning, hail and
tornadoes. Respond promptly to these threats posed by a storm in your area.
The National Weather Service, in cooperation with the broadcast media and your local spotter system,
will provide you with the warnings you need to quickly respond. If you listen to the media, you’ll know
when a storm is approaching your area and if you need to take protective action.
NOAA Weather Radios are the best warning system for all kinds of emergencies, including severe storms.
These inexpensive devices are recommended as the primary warning system for everyone.
Don’t wait until an emergency siren sounds to start looking for flashlights and other things. Make sure
the entire family knows where to go at home, at work, in school, at the mall or anywhere they might be
when the storms strike. Know where you will take shelter.
The most destructive and devastating product of a thunderstorm, tornadoes are characterized by a
funnel-shaped cloud, which forms at the bottom of a wall cloud and reaches to the ground. Tornadoes are
more often than not, accompanied by lightning, heavy rain and hail.
While tornadoes can occur all year, they are most common in Missouri during the spring and summer
months, where they develop along dry lines. Dry lines separate very warm, moist air to the east from
hot, dry air to the west. Most twisters in the state occur in the afternoon or early evening as these
dry lines move east.
All thunderstorms can produce these violently rotating columns of air that descend to the ground, but
most tornadoes are likely to develop within supercells. Missourians are encouraged to be prepared
whenever there is potential for tornadoes.
Make sure you know the difference between a watch and a warning:
- Tornado Watch: Be Prepared. Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss
your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room.
- Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is
imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy
building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest
substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris.
What to Do Before a Tornado?
Develop a family communications plan and create a preparedness kit with supplies to sustain your
family should a tornado strike your community.
Follow NOAA Weather Radio and local TV and radio broadcasts for tornado warnings and updates. Always
follow instructions issued by local officials and emergency personnel.
Pay attention to changing weather and watch for new storms, including these signs:
- Greenish or dark skies
- Larger than normal hail
- Rotating, dark, low-lying and big clouds
- Roars that sound like large trains
What to Do During a Tornado?
- Go to your designated safe room, preferably in a basement or storm cellar on the lowest level of
- If an underground shelter is not available, go to a small interior room, such as a closet, bathroom,
or interior hallway, on the lowest level.
- Avoid windows and doors. Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
- Get under something sturdy like a heavy table or work bench.
- Protect yourself from flying debris with pillows, heavy coats, blankets or quilts.
- Use bicycle or motorcycle helmets to protect your head.
In a mobile home...
- If you are in a mobile home, move to the closest substantial shelter well in advance of approaching
- If you live in a mobile home, even those with tie downs, seek more secure shelter. Have a
prearranged location selected. Go to a friend's or a relative's house or a nearby building with a
basement or tornado shelter.
In your vehicle or outside...
- Well in advance of approaching severe weather go inside a substantial structure.
- If you are under a tornado warning seek shelter immediately.
- Go to the best available, protective area if caught in your vehicle.
- It is unwise to try and outrun a tornado; however, you may be able to head at a right angle to the
storm if you are sure of the direction in which the twister is heading. Tornadoes can change
directions suddenly. They can toss cars, and even large 18 wheelers, around like toys. The safest
option is an underground shelter.
- If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch, depression or underground culvert and lie
flat with your hands shielding your head.
- If you pull off the road, try to seek shelter in a safe structure first. If unavailable lie down in
a low area with your hands covering the back of your head and neck to protect yourself from flying
debris and shattering glass.
- If you take shelter in a ditch make sure you are far enough away from your car, so it and other
heavy debris do not wind up on top of you. Be alert to rising water in the ditch from the heavy
- Taking shelter under an overpass is also not recommended, because most underpasses offer no place to
hide. They can actually act like a wind tunnel and increase the storm's fury.
Away from home...
- At work or school, know the emergency plans. If no specific plans exist, go to an interior hallway
or small room on the building's lowest level. Avoid areas with glass and wide, free span roofs.
- If you find yourself at the store or a mall and if you can't get to a basement or a designated
shelter, go to the center of the lowest level of the building. Avoid windows and lie flat. Cover
yourself with any handy object.
- The best bet is to have a NOAA weather radio with battery backup, have it programmed for your
nearest NWS office and programmed to sound alerts for Greene County. Be aware of changing weather
conditions, HAVE A PLAN and be prepared to seek shelter.
What to Do After a Tornado?
Tornado-related injuries can occur during and after storms. People are occasionally injured while
rummaging through damaged buildings. Be very cautious following a tornado and promptly obtain medical
treatment for any injuries.
- Immediately inspect yourself for injuries.
- Never move severely injured individuals unless they are in danger of additional injury.
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Administer CPR immediately if you encounter someone who is not breathing.
- Apply pressure to bleeding areas of an injured person’s body.
- Visit a doctor if you have a puncture wound.
- If you’re trapped in rubble, make as much noise as possible.
- Follow local TV and radio broadcasts for updates.
- Use caution when entering damaged buildings.
- Wear protective clothing including long sleeves, pants, boots, gloves and other protective clothing
when walking or working in rubble. Watch for broken glass and protruding nails.
- Never touch damaged power lines or objects near damaged lines. Report downed power lines to the
utility company and local officials.
- Avoid using candles to light homes without electricity. Instead, use battery-powered lights.
- Never place propane tanks, grills, camp stoves, generators and pressure washers inside a house,
camper, or garage. These devices can create carbon monoxide that can be fatal if breathed.
Immediately seek medical attention if you become nauseated, light-headed or dizzy..
- Always cooperate with local safety personnel.
- Do not enter damaged areas without permission. You could get in the way of rescue personnel and
Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared!
Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a
severe thunderstorm warning is issued. Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties
where severe thunderstorms may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or
Severe Thunderstorm Warning:
Take Action! Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate
imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes
that can blow over in high winds.
- According to the NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike
fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods for deadly weather. In the US,
between 9% and 10% of those struck die, for an average of 40 to 50 deaths per year.
- During thunderstorms, stay inside. If you are outdoors, an automobile is a safe place to be.
- Indoors, keep away from doors, windows, stoves, sinks, metal pipes or other conductors. Don't use
the telephone. Disconnect electrical appliances such as TVs and radios.
- Outdoors, minimize your height but don't lie flat. Do not take shelter under a tree. Stay away from
wire fences or other metallic conductors. Avoid standing in small sheds in open areas.
Hailstorms don’t last long, but they can create a lot of damage in a short time. Every year, hail causes
nearly $1 billion in damages, mostly to roofs and cars.
Before a Hailstorm
Know What Your Insurance Covers and How Much You Need
- Check your insurance policy to see what’s covered and the deductible you’ve chosen.
- Your insurance policy typically covers the cost to repair roofs and cars, and other common hail
- You may have a higher deductible for wind and hail damage than you do for other types of claims.
Talk to your insurance agent to find out about your coverage.
How to Reduce Hail Damage
If you haven’t taken a look at your roof in a while, now’s the time. Roof repairs today can help you
avoid extensive, time-consuming cleanup later.
Repair or replace worn, curled or missing shingles.
If your roof is aging, consider replacing it before hail season begins.
During a Hailstorm
Protect Yourself and Your Car
In severe storms, a hail stone can be as big as a softball and fall at 50 to 100 miles per hour.
- Stay indoors.
- Stay away from skylights and glass doors to avoid broken glass.
- If it is safe, close drapes, blinds or shades to prevent debris from blowing inside.
- If you can, park your car in the garage or other covered area.
After a Hailstorm
If you have experienced damage from a hailstorm, report it to your insurance company as soon as
NWS Severe Thunderstorm Safety
Watch Vs. Warning
Thunderstorms and Lightning