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A Kid's Guide to Tornadoes and Preventing Disaster Damage

Kid's Tornado Quiz

What are tornadoes?
Tornadoes come from powerful thunderstorms and appear as rotating, funnel-shaped clouds with winds reaching up to 300 miles per hour. This is about 5 times as fast as a car driving on a highway! Tornadoes cause damage when they touch down on the ground, and they can cause damage in areas one mile wide and 50 miles long. Severe weather can be very scary, and tornadoes are one of nature's most violent storms.

Am I at risk from tornadoes?
Every state is at some risk for tornado damage, but states in "Tornado Alley" (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas) have the highest risk. Tornadoes can form any time of the year, but the typical season runs from March to August.

What should I do if a tornado is coming my way?
Tornadoes are hard to predict. Most of the time you will only have a few minutes warning. The most important thing to do is TAKE COVER when a tornado is nearby. It is also important to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch is when tornadoes are possible in your area. No tornado has been spotted, but it could happen. A tornado warning is when a tornado has been seen, and you should take shelter immediately in a place without windows, such as your bathroom or your basement.

I'm just a kid -- what can I do?
There are important things you can do to protect you and your home before a tornado strikes -- while the sun is shining. Talk to your parents about taking the following prevention measures before a tornado strikes:

  • Keep your ears open! Buy a NOAA weather radio, which broadcasts weather alerts.
  • Know your risk -- research tornadoes at the library or call your American Red Cross chapter to find out if you are at risk in your area.
  • Know where to go! When a tornado warning is issued, go at once to a windowless, interior room such as a bathroom, storm cellar, basement or lowest level of the building.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event a tornado watch is issued. Don't forget your pet.
  • Help your parents trim diseased or damaged limbs from trees and shrubs and remove debris from your yard.
  • Talk to your parents about having a plan for shelter and an out-of-state family contact in case you must relocate after a disaster.
  • Build a safe room. Mom and dad might need to talk to a contractor for this!
  • Don't lose your roof to high winds! Have your parents install strapping to keep the roof attached to the walls.
  • Have mom and dad talk to your local building official about additional actions you can take.

Where can I get more information?
Kids can take action now to prevent tornado damage. For more information about tornado season, visit

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