Tornado Survival 101: How to Stay Safe During a Tornado

These tips could save your life.

April 18, 2011, 12:06 PM

April 18, 2011— -- Tales of miraculous survival surfaced after a series of tornadoes ripped through 14 states and left at least 45 people dead over the weekend. But would you know what to do when tornadoes arrive?

More than 243 twisters have flattened towns across the Midwest and the South, from Oklahoma to Virginia, since Thursday. Some areas were hit with flash floods and hail.

Here are tips you can follow to stay safe before and during one of these fierce storms.

Tornadoes are quick-moving, fierce storms that can strike with little or no warning, and can change direction at any moment.

Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning: A tornado watch means weather conditions are right for a tornado to form in your area, whereas a tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted and may be headed for your area.

Pay Attention to Warnings

When the NWS 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. Your local radio and TV stations will also announce NWS alerts.

Even if a tornado watch is issued for your area, stay inside and be aware of changing weather conditions.

Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website to track the country's most dangerous storms.

Watch the Skies

Sometimes 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:

Tornadoes 101: During the Storm

When it comes to what you should do during a tornado, your strategy could change depending on where you are. Nonetheless the Red Cross suggests having a family preparedness plan head of time so everyone knows what to do when a storm hits and where to meet.

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 and find the most central room. Be sure to stay away from windows, doors and outside walls.

If you're in a vehicle or mobile home, FEMA recommends getting out immediately and heading for a more secure 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 land depression and cover your head, FEMA recommends. 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.Read incredible survival stories from the twisters.

ABC News' Leezel Tanglao contributed to this report

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