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For more detailed information, download How to Prepare for a Tornado, a hazard-specific guide, which provides information on the basics of each hazard, how to protect yourself and your property, and what steps to take now.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground and is often—although not always—visible as a funnel cloud. Once the tornado has passed, the National Weather Service (NWS) rates them using the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale based on the severity of the damage and estimated wind speed. The scale goes from an EF0 tornado, which causes light damage, to an EF5 tornado, which causes total devastation. Lightning and hail are common in thunderstorms that produce tornadoes. The destruction and injury caused by a tornado depends on the intensity, size, path, time of day, and amount of time they are on the ground. Wind from tornadoes can reach more than 200 miles per hour, and damage paths can be more than 1 mile wide and 50 miles long. Tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a community in seconds. That is why it is important to establish a protective location; secure financial, insurance, and medical documents; and assemble contact information to prepare for tornadoes.
For more information on protecting yourself, your property and your belongings from natural hazards, the America's PrepareAthon! Protective Guidance documents can assist. The Be Smart-Know Your Alerts and Warnings factsheet provides a brief summary of the various alerts and warnings available from Federal, state, and local governments as well as the private sector that you can sign up for to stay informed and be ready to take action to be safe. The Be Smart – Protect Critical Documents and Valuables is a checklist that can help you to take an inventory of your household documents (e.g., financial and medical records), contacts, and valuables. You can find both of these resources, as well as additional Protective Guidance documents, here.