Tornadoes occasionally hit New England.  Luckily for Massachusetts, the most intense and deadly tornadoes generally develop throughout the Midwest and Great Plains states, however, tornadoes are still a threat and getting proper information regarding safety during a tornado is paramount.

Tornado- A tornado is a violently rotating column of air in contact with the ground and extending from the base of a thunderstorm. A condensation funnel does not need to reach to the ground for a tornado to be present; a debris cloud beneath a thunderstorm confirms the presence of a tornado, even in the absence of a condensation funnel.

Fujita Scale - (or F Scale) - This is a scale of wind damage intensity in which wind speeds are inferred from an analysis of wind damage:

  • F0 (weak): 40- 72 mph, light damage.
  • F1 (weak): 73-112 mph, moderate damage.
  • F2 (strong): 113-157 mph, considerable damage.
  • F3 (strong): 158-206 mph, severe damage.
  • F4 (violent): 207-260 mph, devastating damage.
  • F5 (violent): 261-318 mph, (rare) incredible damage.

Tornado Watch - This means that a National Weather Service (NWS) statement has been issued that indicates that tornadoes are possible in your area (i.e. conditions are more favorable than usual for tornado formation).  It is a recommended that you plan, prepare, and be alert for changing weather and approaching storms.  Stay informed by listening to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio and/or television stations.  Have a plan about what to do if a tornado forms.

Click here to see current watch information.

Tornado Warning - This means that a statement has been issued by NWS local offices indicating that a tornado is either imminent or has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.  A warning indicates the need to take action to protect life and property.

Visit the
Tornado FAQs and additional information about Tornadoes or download "The Thunderstorms, Tornadoes and Lightning Preparedness Guide" from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA), National Weather Service (NWS) and Storm Prediction Center

Some Tornado Safety Tips

  • DO NOT USE A HIGHWAY OVERPASS AS A SHELTER! This myth was created after a videotape appeared on television of several people escaping the wrath of a tornado in this manner.  The reality is that the tape was of a weak tornado that did not directly impact the overpass. Unfortunately, due to this myth, many people have lost their lives.  For more information, meteorologist Dan Miller of the NWS in Norman, Oklahoma has assembled a 25-slide online presentation about this problem.
  • In a home or building, a pre-designated shelter such as a basement is the best option.  In an above ground home, move to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a sturdy piece of furniture. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Stay away from windows.
  • Vehicles are notorious as death traps in tornadoes, because they are easily tossed and destroyed. Either leave the vehicle for sturdy shelter or drive out of the tornado's path if you have enough distance between you and the funnel.  However, tornadoes can move faster than your vehicle, so don't try to outrun a tornado. When traffic is jammed or the tornado is bearing down on you at close range, your only option may be to park safely off the traffic lanes, get out and find a sturdy building for shelter, if possible. If not, lie flat in a low spot, as far from the road as possible (to avoid flying vehicles). In open country, the best option is to escape if the tornado is far away. If the traffic allows, and the tornado is distant, you probably have time to drive out of its path. Watch the tornado closely for a few seconds compared to a fixed object in the foreground (such as a tree, pole, or other landmark). If it appears to be moving to your right or left, it is not moving toward you. Escape at right angles to its track: to your right if it is moving to your left, and vice versa -- just to put more distance between you and its path. If the tornado appears to stay in the same place, growing larger or getting closer -- but not moving either right or left -- it is headed right at you. You must take shelter away from the car or get out of its way fast!
  • Be aware of flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes. You should leave a mobile home and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy nearby building or storm shelter.