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Tropical storms, tornadoes and thunderstorms can be destructive and extremely dangerous weather emergencies. Tropical storms bring high winds and sometimes severe flooding. Tornadoes, nature's most violent storms, can appear suddenly and without warning — even remaining invisible until dust and debris are picked up or a funnel cloud appears. Thunderstorms bring dangerous lightning, one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the United States each year. Being prepared in advance — and ready to act quickly — will help ensure your safety in the event that one of these weather emergencies occurs.
To prepare yourself and your family for the threats posed by tropical storms, tornadoes and thunderstorms it's important that you remember to:
  • Get an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live for a minimum of three days.
  • Make an emergency plan for you and your family.
    Below you will find detailed information on how to prepare for each of these weather emergencies.

Tropical storms have sustained winds of up to 73 miles per hour and can bring intense rain that causes severe flooding. The following are steps you can take to prepare for tropical storms:
  •  Get an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live for a minimum of three days.
  • Make an emergency plan for you and your family.
  • Know the difference between a tropical storm watch and a tropical storm warning:
Tropical Watch Warn.png

  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Secure your home by closing shutters, and securing outdoor objects or bringing them inside.
  • Turn off utilities as instructed. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator's thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Cover all of your home's windows with pre-cut plywood or hurricane shutters to protect your windows from high winds.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
Even though tornadoes are more common in the Midwest, Southeast and Southwest, they can occur in any state and at any time of the year. In Pennsylvania, there have been 170 tornadoes recorded in just the last 10 years (source: National Climactic Data Center). With tornadoes, planning and practicing specifically how and where you take shelter is a matter of survival.
  • Determine a place where you will take shelter in case of a tornado warning.  Storm cellars or basements provide the best protection.
  • If underground shelter is not available, go into an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
    Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Go to the center of the room. Stay away from corners because they attract debris.
  • A vehicle, trailer or mobile home does not provide good protection. Trailer parks should have a community storm shelter and a warden to monitor broadcasts throughout the severe storm emergency. Plan to go quickly to a building with a strong foundation, if possible.
  • If shelter is not available, lie flat in a ditch or other low-lying area. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Schools should have a designated shelter area (usually an interior hallway on the lowest floor). Stay out of auditoriums, gymnasiums and other structures with wide, free span roofs.
  • Know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning:
    Tornado Watch Warn.jpg
    Take a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class from your local Citizens Corps Council


Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which means every thunderstorm is dangerous. Because lightning is so unpredictable and can occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall, being prepared and knowing what to do in a thunderstorm will decrease your risk of being injured. Other dangers associated with thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding, which is responsible for more fatalities than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard.

  • Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening, so be particularly cautious of lightning this time of year.
  • Get an emergency supply kit that includes enough provisions for you and your family to live on for a minimum of three days in case there is a long-term power outage.

Know the difference between a Thunderstorm Watch and a Thunderstorm Warning:
Thunderstorm Watch Warn.jpg

  • If a thunderstorm is likely in your area, postpone outdoor activities.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.

During a Thunderstorm:

  • Get inside a home, building, or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Avoid the following:
  • Natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
  • Hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Anything metal, such as tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Avoid showering or bathing. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Use a corded telephone only for emergencies. Cordless and cellular telephones are safe to use.
  • Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Listen for weather updates from local officials.