Understanding tornadoes and knowing your safe space

Tornadoes are arguably the most destructive type of severe weather that we experience here in the Midwest.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 7:27 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Tornadoes are arguably the most destructive type of severe weather that we experience here in the Midwest.

Since 1950, Wisconsin has averaged about 20 tornadoes each year, most of those occurring in the month of June. However, we know that tornadoes can really happen any time of year. In the past 70 years, there have been 15 tornadoes in December and three in January in the state. Plus, southern Wisconsin has already seen nine tornadoes so far this spring.

Tornadoes come in different shapes, sizes, and intensities. The National Weather Service rates tornado strength according to the EF Scale- ranging from an EF0 that would take down some trees to an EF5 that could decimate entire towns. About 95% of Wisconsin tornadoes are EF2 strength (max winds of 135 mph) or weaker, but we have had some stronger ones. Just two years ago there was an EF3 that went through Boscobel.

So how can you stay safe from a tornado? By sheltering in the right spot.

That can change depending on where you are or what type of building you’re in:

  • House: interior-most room of the basement
    • House without a basement: Interior room, away from windows like a bathroom, closet, or hallway
  • Apartment: Hallway, closet, bathroom, building stairwell or underground parking garage
  • Mobile Home: Neighborhood storm shelter, nearby business, or friend’s house
  • Business: Designated storm shelter, storage closet, or bathroom
  • Outdoors: Nearest storm shelter/building, otherwise lay in a ditch/ravine away from trees.
  • Driving: Get inside the nearest building. Otherwise, pull over, get out of the vehicle, and lay in a ditch/ravine away from trees.
    • Do NOT stay in the car under a bridge or in a tunnel

The bottom line is that you should get to the lowest level, and be in the interior most room away from windows. It’s always a plus if you can grab something like a pillow or blanket to cover your head with. It’s also a good idea to put some shoes on, in case there’s any debris after the storm.

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