Severe Weather Safety -- Tornadoes

By: Rodney Harris Email
By: Rodney Harris Email


Tornadoes are not too common across the Brazos Valley -- but they do occur! Most of us can recall the December twisters of 2006, one of witched caused $2.8 million in property damage in College Station.

A Tornado is a strong rotating column of air that stretches from a thunderstorm and makes contact with the ground. The weakest twisters can develop and dissipate within minutes (causing little to no damage) and the strongest can last for hours destroying close to everything in its path.

Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms develop in unstable atmospheric environments combined with strong wind shear -- the winds changing direction and increasing in speed with height which causes the storms to rotate -- and a feature responsible for lifting the unstable air, such as a cold front or a strong area of upper-level low pressure.

Twisters usually develop in discrete, supercelluar thunderstorms well ahead of an advancing cold front, but they can also develop with squall lines (a long line of storms).


A Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Tornado watches are usually well in advance of an approaching storm system and can last for 6-8 hours. When a tornado watch is issued for your area, be sure to monitor the local weather conditions on a regular basis for any breaking developments.

A TORNADO WARNING means that a tornado has been reported on the ground or detected by Doppler radar. Either way, if a tornado warning is issued for your specific area, you should take shelter immediately.


Tornadoes can and do touch down with little or no notice. The best way to stay safe when a tornado strikes is to know exactly what to do and where to go before-hand.

AT HOME: A storm-cellar or basement is the safest place to be if a tornado strikes. Atticks and other elevated rooms are the worst place to be.

AT HOME: Take shelter on the lowest floor in the interior-most part of the house.

AT HOME: If possible, avoid rooms with windows and sharp objects. A tub in a window-less bathroom can make for good shelter.

AT HOME: Cover yourself and others with pillows and mattresses for protection against flying objects.

IN MOBILE HOMES: Leave mobile homes if you are under a tornado warning. Even well-grounded mobile homes can be overturned in twisters. Make sure you have a plan to take shelter in a nearby building or home.

IN YOUR CAR: Get to the nearest building and take shelter. If you can see a funnel cloud or tornado, get out of the car immediately and take shelter in a nearby building or lie flat the nearest ditch or depression. If a tornado develops near your vehicle, you will not be able to outrun it. Automobiles can quickly become debris.

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