Tornadoes and Severe Storms

“Severe” thunderstorms are thunderstorms that produce 1-inch hail or larger, or have strong wind gusts of at least 58 mph. There are about 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the U.S. and about 10% of these reach severe levels. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, and can occur without rainfall.

Kit reminds us that if we know our family's tornado plan, we don't have to be worried.

Tornadoes are rotating columns of air that can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris. March to May is peak tornado season in Middle Tennessee. 

Although tornados can appear at any time, Tennessee is especially vulnerable and leads the country in nocturnal tornadoes.

Before a Tornado or Severe Storm

Talk about tornadoes with your family so that everyone knows where to go if there is a tornado warning. Know where your family’s tornado “safe room” is in your home, and stock it with an emergency tornado kit.

Your safe room should be the most protected room in your home, preferably in a basement or interior room on the lowest floor level, with no windows.

Mindy says that outdoor warning sirens are only meant to be heard outside in certain areas.

It’s important to know the difference between watches and warnings for storms and tornadoes:

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

Be Prepared: Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the area.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Take Action: Severe weather is occurring, and you should take shelter inside.

Tornado Watch

Be Prepared: Tornadoes are possible in and near the area.

Tornado Warning

Take Action: A tornado is in the area. Find safe shelter right away!

During a Severe Storm

  • During storms, look for the following signs that mean a tornado might be coming:
    • A dark, greenish sky
    • Approaching cloud of debris
    • A loud roar, similar to a freight train
    • A rotating, funnel-shaped cloud
  • If you think a tornado might be coming, take shelter inside.
  • Follow the 30/30 lightening rule. If you can’t you see lightening and can’t count to 30 before hearing thunder, stay indoors for 30 minutes after last hearing thunder.
  • Avoid taking showers or baths during severe storms. 
  • If lightening is nearby and you are in a car, stay inside the car.
  • If you are in a forest or open area, seek shelter in a low area under small trees. Don’t go near isolated, tall trees in open areas, since these could attract lightning.
  • If you feel your hair stand on end, it means lightning is about to strike. Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, hands over ears, and head between knees. Making yourself small and limiting contact with the ground will help keep you safe from a lightning strike.
Mindy says that if there is a possibility of a tornado, stay inside even if there is no warning.

During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, find safe shelter right away! Take the following precautions: 

  • Go to your family’s “safe room” while the warning is in place.
  • Use pillows, blankets, or your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • If you are outside try to get to a sturdy building. If you cannot find shelter, find a low, flat location like a ditch and cover your head with your hands.
  • Watch out for flying debris.
  • Use your family emergency plan so that you and your family know what you will do during  a tornado. If you are at school, follow the tornado drill.

After a Tornado or Severe Storm

  • Check for injuries. Call 9-1-1 for medical help, if needed.
  • Stay away from fallen power lines.
  • Be aware of hazards from broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects.
Activity Sheets.


There are activity sheets about tornadoes and severe storms in the Williamson Kids Coloring and Activity book!