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Take heed of tornado warnings

URBANA, Ill. – As prime tornado season approaches, know what a tornado warning means and what to do.

The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning under two conditions, says Duane Friend, University of Illinois Extension natural resources educator: rotation is indicated by weather radar, or rotation has been observed by trained spotters. If a warning is issued for the area, it means residents in the warning area are in the projected path. Bulletins often discuss the potential impact damage from the tornado.

What to do during a tornado warning

"First thing to do when a tornado warning is issued for your area is to take cover immediately," Friend says. "Do not go outside to look for the tornado; it may approach quickly with little time to get to safety."

Damage from downed trees and flying debris may also occur. Tornado warnings may include these cautions: "life-threatening situation," "flying debris may be deadly," or “damage is likely to occur to buildings, with complete destruction possible.” In extreme cases, tornado warnings may include "catastrophic damage threat."

Understanding tornado paths

Tornadoes' paths are projected paths that sometimes change trajectory significantly.

"During a televised broadcast, a meteorologist often shows the potential path that widens the farther out from the event you get," Friend says. The force of wind also increases exponentially as speed increases. 

"This explains why even small objects have such destructive power when traveling at high speeds," Friend says. "While it may be exciting to consider getting video of a tornado to post on social media, getting too close can put your life in danger."

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SOURCE: Duane Friend, Illinois Extension Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy Educator