Tornado Survival 101: What to Do When Tornadoes Strike

When a vicious tornado ripped through a Mississippi church, the only person inside dove for cover under a communion table. The quick thinking may have saved his life -- within minutes the church was completely destroyed.

"I was praying," Dale Thrasher said. "It's just like He put his arms around me and that table and sheltered me from that storm."

On Saturday the powerful tornado cut a swath of destruction from Lousiana to Mississippi, claiming at least 12 lives in the process. Some others barely managed to escape, crediting everything from a freezer to cinderblocks for saving their skin.

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According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there are several steps citizens can take before, during and after a tornado to even the odds against "nature's most violent storms."

Tornadoes 101: Before the Storm

Pay Attention to Warnings

When the National Weather Service sends out any tornado alerts or warnings, tune to the NWS radio, FEMA said. The station is dedicated to giving 24/7 updates on current weather conditions. Click here for more information on the NWS radio station.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has a Web site on which you can track the country's most dangerous storms. Click here to visit the NOAA Watch Web site.

Watch the Skies

Sometime's it's as simple as looking out your window. FEMA advises that as long as the storm hasn't already hit, check the sky for the following danger signs:

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Dark, often green sky
Large hail
Large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
Loud roar, similar to a freight train

Tornadoes 101: During the Storm

When it comes to what to do during a storm, your strategy could change depending on where your are, according to the FEMA Web site.

If you're in a well defined structure with sturdy walls, you should go to any pre-designated shelter if there is one, like a storm cellar or basement. If there is no pre-designed shelter, head to the lowest floor of the building. Be sure to stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.

If there's no basement, try and find the most central room and take cover there. Take a note from the church-going Thrasher and get under a sturdy table.

If you're in a vehicle or any kind of mobile home, FEMA recommends getting out immediately and heading for a building or storm shelter.

"Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes," FEMA says on its site.

If you're outside and there's no shelter available, get as low as you can. Head for a ditch or depression and cover your head, FEMA says. Do not go under a bridge or overpass.

One thing FEMA says not to do that could be a natural instinct for most: Do not try to outrun the twister if you're in a congested or urban area.

"Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter."

Also, keep an eye out for flying debris.

Click here to visit FEMA's Web site for the full tornado survival tips.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.