Tornado Safety

Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 miles per hour or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. On April 3, 1974, 20 twisters were reported across the Bluegrass - one more than had been sighted during the entire worst year on record. In recent years Kentucky and Southern Indiana have seen several violent tornados. Those include Bullitt County on May 28, 1996, Owensboro (Daviss County) on Janurary 3, 2000 and Leitchfield (Grayson County) on May 23, 2000.

Tornadoes can occur at anytime of day, at anytime of the year. However in Kentucky the peak occurrence of Tornadoes takes place in April and June. In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while in the northern states are most occur during the summer. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m. But have been know to occur at all hours of the day or night. The average tornado moves from the southwest to the northeast, but tornadoes have been known to move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 MPH, but may vary from nearly stationary to 70 MPH.

Tornadoes are classified by the severity of damage that they cause. This is rated on a scale of 1 to 5 known as the FUJITA SCALE. Tornadoes that are rated as an F-3 or higher are said to be Violent Tornadoes. The earlier mentioned Bullitt County tornado was mainly an F-3, but did reach F-4 status briefly.

Q: Who is most at risk from tornadoes?
A: Those who are in mobile homes and automobiles.


Tornado Watch
Conditions are right for tornadoes to form. When your area is under a Tornado Watch, continue to stay tuned to WAVE 3 for possible warnings.

Tornado Warning
A tornado has been spotted by a trained observer or detected on Doppler Radar. Take action immediately.


At Home

  • Go to the basement, under the stairs or under a heavy piece of furniture like a table or workbench.
  • Get under heavy furniture, and cover your head with blankets or pillows. The biggest threat of death or injury comes from head injuries caused by flying or falling debris.
  • Keep windows closed and stay away from them.

In School

  • Go to the lowest floor or basement.
  • Get to interior rooms or hallways and protect your head.
  • Stay out of gymnasiums and auditoriums.
  • In Public Buildings
  • Go to designated shelter, an interior hallway or small room on the lowest floor.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Do not go to your car.

In Open Country

  • Move away from a tornado at right angles.
  • If a tornado is near, DO NOT try to outrun it.
  • Get out of your car, lie flat in a ditch or depression.
  • Stay away from large trees or metal poles. Cover your head.

In Mobile Homes

  • Leave your mobile home immediately.
  • If there is no designated community shelter, take cover in a ditch or depression.
  • Persons in mobile homes should have a plan of action before threatening weather occurs.