Understanding risk is an important part of tornado safety. Fortunately, most tornado warnings turn out to be just severe thunderstorms — at least for most of the people warned. But tornados form with little or no warning and their paths are completely unpredictable. They can also be transparent until they touch down and start sucking up debris. This makes them even more dangerous since you may not see one approaching!
So, under no circumstance should you become complacent and not take immediate action when a warning is issued.
Tornado Warnings and Watches
A note about a tornado warning versus tornado watch: A watch means there may be possible tornado activity and you should be on alert for a tornado warning. A warning means that an actual tornado has been detected.
Tornadoes cause damage in relatively localized areas when compared to other disaster such as hurricanes. You can usually go a mile or so in several directions and be out of the destruction zone. This means that post-disaster emergency services are normally still available from nearby communities.
The following map gives some guidance regarding tornado risk. However, tornadoes can occur anywhere! All 50 states have had tornadoes. And there are over 1,000 tornados worldwide each year. So, even though you don’t live in a “high risk” area you still need to plan what to do if there is a tornado!