Tornadoes are more common in NSW than people may think and are usually associated with supercell thunderstorms.
It is important to be aware of the conditions that can cause tornadoes and know what to do to prepare, respond and recover.
Please find below some information on what to do before, during and a tornado:
Preparing for a tornado
Know the warning signs which include:
- Severe thunderstorms, with frequent thunder and lightning
- Extremely dark skies, sometimes highlighted by green or yellow clouds
- A loud roar, rumbling or whistling sound
- A rotating funnel-shaped cloud at the rear base of a thundercloud, often behind a curtain of heavy rain or hail
- An approaching cloud of debris
Have a plan of what you will do. This plan should include:
- Identifying a safer place (shelter) to go. These include (in order of preference) a storm shelter, a basement, a small windowless room in the lowest level of a sturdy building, an internal hallway, room or bathroom, or under a heavy table or desk
- Identifying items that can be used as protection – mattresses, blankets, etc.
- Remembering to plan for your pets
- Preparing an emergency kit now so that you have essential items available after a tornado, like a battery-powered radio and torch, first aid kit, candles, and matches
- Be sure to remember COVID-safe practices if you need to seek shelter from a tornado
Pay attention to weather reports for conditions that could indicate the potential for a tornado.
Even though tornadoes can cause significant damage, maintaining your yard and balcony can reduce damage. Loose items may become dangerous missiles during a tornado and should be secured.
What to do during a tornado
- Take safe shelter immediately
- Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls
- Use mattresses, blankets, and other items to protect people
- Use your arms to protect your head and neck
- Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris
- Lie down in a ditch away from items that could be drawn up by the tornado. Cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible
- Beware of flooding from downpours and be prepared to move quickly
- Livestock may hear and sense impending tornadoes. Without risking your personal safety, open gates for your livestock to escape
Office or apartment building:
- Large buildings with wide-span roofs may collapse in a tornado
- Take shelter in an inner hallway or room, ideally in a basement or on the ground floor
- Do not use the elevator
- Stay away from windows
If you are driving:
- Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle, go to the nearest solid shelter
- If you cannot get to a building, cover your head and neck with your arms and cover your body with a coat or blanket, if possible.
- If the tornado is close, get out of your car and take cover in a low-lying area, such as a ditch
- Do not go under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location
Do NOT chase tornadoes – they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly. A tornado is deceptive. It may appear to be standing still but is, in fact, moving toward you.
What to do after a tornado
- Stay where you are until the tornado has fully passed
- If you need emergency assistance, call triple zero (000) or call out for help. Continue to shelter where you are unless it is unsafe to stay there. If you cannot move, keep calling out and wait for assistance
- If possible, wear shoes when you move out from your shelter
- Stay clear of damaged buildings and structures, fallen power lines, glass and other debris
- If you can assist others, do so safely. Check on your neighbours and others around you
- Continue to listen to weather updates and follow all advice from the emergency services
- If you can, contact family and friends to let them know you are safe
- Safely check to see if your property has been damaged and contact your insurance agency
- Ensure the area and your building is safe to enter. This may require checks and assessments by qualified people
- Wear appropriate clothes when clearing debris, such as thick soled and closed shoes, long pants, gloves and masks
- Do not eat or drink anything that has been impacted by the tornado. Bring fresh water and food if you are returning to your property
- Safely dispose of all damaged material appropriately
- Always follow COVID-safe precautions
If you require emergency assistance in floods and storms, call the NSW SES on 132 500. In a life-threatening emergency, call 000 (Triple Zero).