A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. They can destroy buildings, flip cars, and create deadly flying debris.
Tornadoes do not occur as often in Orange County as in other parts of the country, but they do happen. As such, they can catch families living in Southern California off guard. If you do encounter a tornado, you must prepare for long-term stay at home or sheltering in place by gathering emergency supplies, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, water, medical supplies and medication.
Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible.
Tornadoes can accompany tropical storms and hurricanes as they move onto land. Waterspouts are tornadoes that form over water.
Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.
Prepare for the worst by signing up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. If your community has sirens, then become familiar with the warning tone.
Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle if you are in a car. If you are in a car or outdoors and cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible.
Before a Tornado Hits
Know the Difference!
Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, or television for information.
A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
Find a list of facts about tornadoes at FEMA’s disaster website.
Get a severe weather primer on tornados and at the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
Watch live weather cams and browse the weather library at the National Weather Center.
See pictures of tornadoes and how they form in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Tornado Guide.
Track weather patterns on an interactive map at the Weather Underground orThe Weather Channel.