The Big List of Nasty Disaster’s – Part Fourteen: 4 Warning Signs of a Tornado and How to Prepare

The Tornado is one of Nature’s most nasty, powerful, and destructive forces. It can strike with little to no warning and throw large objects around like a child tosses a small toy.

Additionally, the most violent of tornadoes can tear apart a sturdy home or building, rip trees from the ground, make missiles out of large objects, create whirling winds with speeds of up to 300 mph, and move forwards at speeds of up to 70 mph.

Therefore, knowing how to prepare for, detect, and protect your loved ones from this nasty, natural disaster is paramount.

Twister Tornado

“Even as the seasons change, nature moves within itself, it’s colossal power and delicate beauty in perfect harmony. Perfectly, cosmically, sane. Though periodically, nature will in a kind of psychotic fit, go completely, randomly mad.” ~ Twister Prologue

Thankfully, with modern technology, there are four ways to receive tornado alerts. USE THEM!

4 Ways to Stay Informed

The internet.

The following websites provide real-time notifications of tornado warnings.

Your Phone.

Phone apps are a great way to receive notices because you probably have your phone with you most of the time.


While you can receive notices on standard radio, it is best to have a NOAA weather radio.


Yes, I almost forgot this one! Though many of us use the internet alone, some people still have televisions. 🙂

Know the Difference!

A tornado WATCH means a tornado is possible.

A tornado WARNING means a tornado is already occurring or will occur soon. GO TO YOUR SAFE PLACE IMMEDIATELY.

Know the Scale

Tornadoes are rated according to the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This scale ranges from EF0 for “weak” tornadoes up to EF5 for “violent” tornadoes. Just jump to the description of the damage of an EF5 if you want to get freaked out.

EF0 – 65–85 mph (105–137 km/h)

Severe tropical storm – Category 1
Light damage. Peels surface off some roofs; some damage to gutters or siding; branches broken off trees; shallow-rooted trees pushed over.

EF1 – 86 to 110 (138 to 178 km/h)

Category 1-2
Moderate damage. Roofs severely stripped; mobile homes overturned or badly damaged; loss of exterior doors; windows and other glass broken.

EF2 – 111 to 135 (179 to 218 km/h)

Category 3
Considerable damage. Roofs torn off well-constructed houses; foundations of frame homes shifted; mobile homes destroyed; large trees snapped or uprooted; light-object missiles generated; cars lifted off the ground.

EF3 – 136 to 165 (219 to 266 km/h)

Category 4-5
Severe damage. Entire stories of well-constructed houses destroyed; severe damage to large buildings such as shopping malls; trains overturned; trees debarked; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown; structures with weak foundations blown away some distance.

EF4 – 166 to 200 (267 to 322 km/h)

Strong category 5
Devastating damage. Well-constructed houses and whole frame houses completely leveled; cars were thrown and small missiles generated.

EF5 – >200 (>322 km/h)

Hurricane Patricia
Explosive damage. Strong frame houses leveled off foundations and swept away; automobile-sized missiles fly through the air more than 100 m (300 ft); steel reinforced concrete structures badly damaged; high-rise buildings have significant structural deformation; incredible phenomena will occur.

Okay, so now that you know all you need to know about staying informed when technology is working, here is what you paid for. 🙂 How to recognize a potential tornado when the warning systems fail.

4 Warning Signs of a Tornado

  1. Dark, often greenish sky.
  2. Large hail.
  3. A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating).
  4. Loud roar, similar to a freight train.

Alright, now you are ready to detect a tornado, great! Now, let’s move on to how you can prepare for a tornado.

How to Prepare for a Tornado

Build an emergency kit for both your home and vehicle.

Make sure your emergency kit includes enough food and water for a minimum of three days. Also, make sure it contains a battery powered NOAA radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, prescription medications, and a first-aid kit. (See this checklist)

Store protective coverings.
Discuss a family communication plan.

Be sure to put ICE — In Case of Emergency — in front of your emergency contacts in your phone.

Find out if there are emergency plans at your school and work.
Talk through your plans with your children.
Determine your best option for shelter and discuss this with your family.
Communicate where you store your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers.

Make sure you properly stock your first-aid kit with medical supplies. Also, teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.

Create a bug-out-binder (contains relevant documents – click for checklist).
Consider building a safe room.

If you are in a part fo the country that frequently experiences Hurricanes and Tornadoes, building a safe room is a must. This safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris. Such a safe room will cost approximately $3000 to $6000 if you hire a professional contractor to do it. You can build a safe room in several places.

  • Your basement.
  • On a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
  • An interior room on the first floor.
  • Additional considerations for the build
    • Must be adequately anchored (to resist overturning and uplift).
    • Joints and connections must be strong enough to resist the wind.
    • Walls, doors, and ceiling must be able to withstand pressure and windborne objects as well as falling debris.
    • If you use existing residence walls, they must be separated from the main structure so that if the main structure receives damage, it will not damage the safe room.
    • Should include passive ventilation.
    • An armored in-swing door.

How to Survive a Tornado

Go to your safe room or predesignated safe place.

If you do not have a safe room, go to the basement, storm cellar or lowest level of the building and take shelter in a small interior room such as a closet or hallway. Also, stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. You want as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Additionally, cover your head and neck with your arms. If you are in a manufactured home, GET OUT! Plan a place where you can go now and if there is a watch or warning go their immediately.

Get to a low place, ditch, or vehicle (as a last resort).

If you are outside, and there is no sturdy structure nearby, find the lowest place possible and lie down flat on the ground. Additionally, if you have a vehicle nearby, try to drive to the nearest sturdy structure. However, if flying debris hits your vehicle, stop and shelter in place. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a blanket.

Do not attempt to shelter under a bridge or overpass.

These structures create wind tunnels and will not protect you from flying debris.

Never try to escape in a vehicle if you are in an urban area.

It is much safer to find a sturdy building in which to take shelter.


Flying debris causes most tornado fatalities.


Certainly, tornadoes can be terrifying for those who are not prepared. Thankfully, modern satellite technology makes it possible to receive notification in advance.

However, because a tornado can develop quickly, notice is not always possible.

Therefore, it is important to know the four visible and audible signs, a dark, often greenish sky, large hail, a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating), and a loud roar, similar to a freight train.

With a little bit of planning, you and your family can improve your preparedness and survive.

Let’s talk!

Do you have a tornado story to tell? If so, I would love to hear it. Please post your story or comments in the sections below. And as always, press on my friends!

BACK TO INDEX: The Big List of Nasty Disasters and How to Prepare: Part One

  • Show Comments

  • vocalpatriot

    5th warning sign of a tornado: the sound of a freight train where there should not be one.

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