Tips for surviving a deadly tornado - WDAM.COM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Tornado Safety 101: How to survive a storm

More than 500 people died in 2011 from tornadoes making it the deadliest year for these storms since 1936.

We can't change mother nature, but researchers are constantly trying to pinpoint where future storms will strike so we can get out of the way.

Tornadoes are devastating to both life and property.  

What's just as scary is that approximately 70 percent of all tornado warnings issued in the United States each year are false alarms.

That means only three out of every 10 tornado warnings results in a tornado touchdown confirmed by the National Weather Service. They look for evidence from property damage or wind pattern information left behind in neighborhoods, fields or wooded areas.  

Despite advances in weather forecasting, on average, you'll usually only get a 13-minute warning that a tornado may be headed your way. This means you need to act, and act quickly.

Dr. Josh Wurman is the President of the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colorado. We met up with Wurman during his appearance at Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC.

Wurman has devoted his career to tracking tornadoes and hurricanes.

"What we're hoping for is to get that false alarm rate down to below 50 percent, and we're hoping to get the lead time up to 20-30 minutes, so people have time to seek shelter," Wurman says.

Wurman has even invented the Doppler on Wheels network which is made up of three mobile doppler radar trucks used to track and collect data from these powerful storms.

"We're trying to understand better how tornadoes form so we can get the warnings better and to do that, we really need to see the details," Wurman said. "Why do some thunderstorms make tornadoes, but most of them don't?"

Wurman says the best thing you can do when a tornado is heading your way is to get into a basement or a shelter.

"If you really can't get to the shelter, and the tornado is maybe a minute or two away, then try to get to the toughest, most interior room that seems like it's going to survive the wind as best you can," Wurman advises. "Get into a bathtub, if you have time, get a mattress or pillow to put over your head."

While the wind may blow you down, the biggest threat is that the wind could destroy your house causing debris to fall on top of you.

Wurman says weather warnings and watches are similar to putting your seatbelt on before driving. No one anticipates being in a car crash, but you put on a seatbelt just in case.

Although you may not get hit by a tornado, when you hear a weather warning for your area, it's best to be in the safest place possible in the event the storm damages or destroys your home. 

Click here for more tips from FEMA for protecting your family from a tornado.

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