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How to stay safe and prepare for tornadoes and lightning storms

Severe Weather Preparedness Week is in full swing. Learn how to prepare and stay safe when severe weather strikes.

MOLINE, Ill. — Severe Weather Preparedness season is in full swing. There are preparations and safety tips to follow to stay safe when there is severe weather happening.


When it comes to tornado safety, the biggest thing is to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.

Watch = Be Prepared 
A tornado watch is when conditions are favorable for development of thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. When a watch is issued, have a way to stay informed and know where you are going to shelter in case a warning is issued. 

Warning = Take Action
A tornado warning is when a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado is imminent. Go to your shelter and have a way to stay informed about weather conditions. 

Before a tornado happens, make sure you have picked a place to shelter, with an emergency kit and supplies available. There is more detail here on how to prepare before severe weather occurs.

During a tornado, make sure you shelter in a place that is away from windows and on the lowest level of your home or building. You would want to be in the most interior part of the building or home. Hallways, closets, and bathtubs are some examples of where to go during a tornado.

If you are outside during a tornado, drive to the nearest sturdy building. Never seek shelter under a bridge. If you can’t get to sturdy building, lie flat in a ditch as a last resort. Never try to outdrive a tornado.

After a tornado, watch out for downed power lines, broken glass, and sharp or dangerous debris. Avoid damaged areas. Stay off roads to allow rescue workers a clear passage. Follow instructions from local officials.

If you have pets, get them prepared at the first sign of an approaching system. Put a leash on them or place them if their carrier, then put them in your shelter area. Include your pet’s food and medicine if they have any in your emergency kit.


If you are caught outside during a lightning storm, there is not a safe place for you to go but there are precautions that can slightly reduce your risk of being struck. The first is to avoid open fields on top of hill or a ridge top. The second is to stay from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. Height, pointy shape, and isolation are dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The third is to stay away from water, wet items, and metal objects.

If you are in your car during a lightning storm, you are safe if the car is hardtop. Make sure to close all windows, don’t touch metal objects inside the car, and pull over on the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights.

If you are inside during a lightning storm, you are in safe place as well. There are some rules to follow, similar to as if you were in a car during the storm. Make sure you don’t touch electrical equipment or electronics plugged into the wall. Stay off corded phones and avoid plumbing. Finally, do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

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