Where to go if a tornado hits - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Where to go if a tornado hits

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Images of the Watford City tornado have shocked the upper midwest, but they come as a dose of reality that severe weather has arrived. As amazing as the video looks, it's exactly what you should not be doing if a tornado hits. The people behind the camera were way too close when they should have been seeking shelter.

Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman went to the experts to explain the safer options.

"We have to be on top of it," Hutch Johnson said in the weather center of the Valley News Live studio. "We're watching every cell, we're watching every storm."

As much as your storm team has you covered this season, now is your time to study up as well.

"June is our busiest tornado month here in the upper midwest. So, now is the time to plan ahead and know where you can go to stay safe during severe weather."


The campground can be one of the most dangerous places in the event of a tornado. Campers and tents are no protection.

"You may be unfamiliar with the area many times because you're traveling," Lisa Green, meteorologist, explained. "Check with the site manager about where your shelter is."

She says you'll want to look for sturdy, enclosed walls. But, if you can't find that then get down in a low lying area. 

"A dip in the ground, maybe an embankment you can lay up against if the storm is coming in that direction," she said. However, there is another risk if you're near rivers or bodies of water. Along with tornadoes and other severe weather comes the possibility of flash flooding. Take that into consideration if you have to shield yourself on the ground.

Mobile Homes

Next, neighborhoods in mobile home communities must have evacuation plans.

"In a mobile home you are not safe, no matter what," Lisa warns.

She suggests you discuss a plan with your neighbors and family. You're looking for a place with a foundation, or even heading underground. A friend's basement may be good option or a local community center.

"Find out if you do have that shelter," Lisa says. "If not, maybe connect with someone who has a basement or safe place to go."


But, driving should be your last option.

"One of the worst places to be during a tornado is in your car," Lisa said. 

Depending on where the tornado is in relation to a car, you'll have to make a judgment call. If it seems reasonable to drive away from the storm, move in a right-angle direction to the storm. For example, if the tornado appears to be moving directly from right to left in front of you, turn straight around and drive away. If the tornado does not appear to be moving but is growing in size, that means it's coming towards you. In which case, driving right or left out of its path is best.

If you're in a car and the tornado is too close to outrun but not close enough that you're swept up in it, get out of the car and find shelter in a building or embankment.

"But, you'll want to be far away from trees and far away from power lines because they can turn into debris," Lisa warns.
If you have been caught up in wind or flying debris inside a vehicle, some recommend to park the car, keep the seatbelt on and duck down as low as possible while sheltering your head and neck with your arms.

"Bottom line," Hutch says, "is that you want to know what's coming your way. Tune into Valley News Live and we will keep you covered."

No place is immune to tornadoes, but remember your safest option is the lowest level, interior part of a sturdy building. Put as many walls between you and the tornado as possible.
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