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Tornado, severe thunderstorm tips: Watch vs. Warning, 10 other things to know to stay safe

Tornados may not be very common in New England, but it’s important to know what to do if one does materialize, especially with the risk for severe weather on Monday.

When the National Weather Service tells you to be on the lookout, you need to know what to do. You can find a complete severe weather safety guide from NWS here.

You can find tornado safety tips from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency here.

What is the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning issued by the National Weather Service?

  • Tornado Watch: Be Prepared! Tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. Review and discuss your emergency plans and check supplies and your safe room. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued or you suspect a tornado is approaching. Acting early helps to save lives! Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where tornadoes may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
  • Tornado Warning: Take Action! A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. There is imminent danger to life and property. Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If in a mobile home, a vehicle, or outdoors, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or small county) that may be impacted by a tornado identified by a forecaster on Radar or by a trained spotter/law enforcement who is watching the storm.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: Be Prepared! Severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. Stay informed and be ready to act if a severe thunderstorm warning is issued. Watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center for counties where severe thunderstorms may occur. The watch area is typically large, covering numerous counties or even states.
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: Take Action! Severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property. Take shelter in a substantial building. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds. Warnings are issued by your local forecast office. Warnings typically encompass a much smaller area (around the size of a city or county) that may be impacted by an on-going severe thunderstorm.

Here are 10 tornado safety tips:

1) Have multiple ways to get warnings

2) Once a tornado warning is issued, go to a basement for shelter. If you do not have a basement, seek an interior room away from windows. The idea is to put as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.

3) Debris is the No. 1 killer in tornadoes. If you have time, put on a bicycle helmet. If not, try to protect yourself from debris by using a mattress or pillow.

4) If possible, try to avoid the southwest corner of your home when seeking shelter. Most tornadic storms will come in from that direction.

5) Do NOT try to open windows to equalize pressure. This is a myth that will only leave you with little time to get to safety.

6) If you’re on the road and you see a tornado, pull over and seek shelter in a sturdy building. Try to avoid big box retail stores that offer little protection due to the material their roofs are made of.

7) If you’re on the road and there is no shelter, seek a ditch or low-lying area, lie flat and cover your head.

8) If you’re on the road, you can also pull over your vehicle and lower your head beneath the windshield. Make sure your seat belt is on.

9) Have an emergency kit and a plan in place before the tornado strikes.

10) Avoid walking around outside after the tornado hits as power lines may be down. Wait for emergency officials.

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