Even though tornadoes are more common in the months of April, May and June, they can occur at any time of the year. In Nebraska, there were 38 tornadoes reported so far in 2015.   With tornadoes, planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival.

Before a Tornado

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky
    • Large hail
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
    • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
    • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

During a Tornado

  • Determine a place where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning.  Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
  • If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.  Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.  Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
  • A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Trailer parks should have a community storm shelter and a warden to monitor broadcasts throughout the severe storm emergency. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
  • If you are outside with no shelter, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:
    • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
    • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
    • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
    In all situations:
    • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
    • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
    • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.
  • Schools should have a designated shelter area (usually an interior hallway on the lowest floor). Stay out of auditoriums, gymnasiums and other structures with wide, free span roofs.
  • Know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning:
    Tornado Watch Warn.jpg

    Tornado Facts

    Quick facts you should know about tornadoes:
    • They may strike quickly, with little or no warning.
    • They may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up or a cloud forms in the funnel.
    • The average tornado moves Southwest to Northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction.
    • The average forward speed of a tornado is 30 mph, but may vary from stationary to 70 mph.
    • Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land.
    • Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
    • Tornadoes are most frequently reported east of the Rocky Mountains during spring and summer months.
    • Peak tornado season in the southern states is March through May; in the northern states, it is late spring through early summer.
    • Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 pm and 9 pm, but can occur at any time.


    Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from Cass County Emergency Management Agency and Sarpy/Cass Department of Health and Wellness.