Severe Weather Safety: Understanding Tornado Watches & Warnings - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Jul 15, 2022

Severe Weather Safety: Understanding Tornado Watches & Warnings


Tornado Watch vs. Warning: What’s the Difference?


Tornadoes are typically associated with the plains of the Midwest and Southern United States. But did you know that there have been 87 tornadoes in New York State over the last ten years, totaling approximately 16 million dollars in property damage?


While New Yorkers may be spared from the lion’s share of the tornadoes that occur in the country, it is still important to be mindful of what preparations you need to make to ensure your safety and protect your property when your area is in a tornado watch or warning. Knowing the distinction between a tornado watch and a warning can be invaluable when severe weather hits close to home.


What Is a Tornado Watch?

The National Weather Service implements a tornado watch when weather conditions in an area are conducive to producing a tornado. When a tornado watch is in effect, it is a good idea to review your emergency plans, ensure you have necessary supplies, and be prepared to take action if the watch turns into a warning. If it is safe to do so, secure any outdoor items that are not fixed to a structure – for example, lawn chairs or a trampoline – to help decrease hazards and property damage.


What Is a Tornado Warning?

A tornado warning occurs when a tornado has been sighted or otherwise indicated on a weather radar in or around your area. If a tornado warning is in effect, you should act immediately because tornadoes can move quickly and unpredictably. If you see a tornado warning in effect, this is the time to take shelter and activate your tornado emergency plan.


What Should a Tornado Emergency Plan Include?

Just like a fire plan, every home should have a tornado emergency plan that is frequently reviewed with all members of the home.


A tornado emergency plan should include:


       Clear instructions indicating where to go if there is a tornado

     This area is typically a basement or storm shelter. If you do not have a basement or storm shelter, you should try to find shelter in a small interior room that is away from windows, doors, and outside facing walls. Plan to shelter in rooms with concrete or reinforced walls and avoid rooms with large, expansive ceilings.

       Emergency Kit

     Every home should have an emergency kit with useful items that is stocked and checked frequently. This kit can include things like water, non-perishable food for you and your pets, battery operated radio, extra batteries, flashlight, first aid kit, whistle or air horn, dust mask, personal hygiene products, extra clothes, tools, paper plates and utensils, can opener, medications, cash, cell phones, and chargers. You should also keep blankets, pillows, and other spare comfort items handy so that you can stay warm without power.

       Emergency phone numbers

     Write down any important phone numbers and store them in a safe place so that you have access to them if you are unable to access your contacts digitally.

       A meeting plan

      In addition to determining a place to take shelter during a storm, you should determine a meeting place if you become separated or if your home becomes uninhabitable after a tornado has passed and it is safe to exit shelter.


Tornadoes move fast and are extremely dangerous. If there is a tornado watch or warning affecting your area, remain vigilant and be ready to take shelter fast. Having a plan and being prepared is key to keeping you, your family, and your property safe.