Tornado preparedness: How to get ready for tornado season in Texas

May 21, 2021

Find out what you need to include in your tornado preparedness plan to stay safe during a tornado!

Tornado in tornado alley 
Tornadoes can happen almost anywhere, but are a fairly common occurrence in Texas! The key to staying safe and minimizing damage in the event of a tornado is having a tornado preparedness plan. The more you know about tornados and the more you prepare your family and your home for a severe weather strike, the more peace of mind you'll have during tornado season.

Facts about tornados 

Tornadoes occur when a rotating column of air extends from the base of a thunderstorm and comes in contact with the earth. They vary in shapes and sizes, with most being around 250 feet across and traveling a few miles before they dissipate. Tornadoes are a common occurrence in many areas of the United States with some states like Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma more directly affected by them on a regular basis.

Here are a few other tornado facts you should know:
  • The average wind speed of a tornado rarely tops out at above 110 mph. However, the most severe tornado can surpass 300 mph.
  • Tornado season is when tornadoes are most likely to occur, which is late spring and sometimes in early fall.
  • If an area is under a tornado watch, this means that the area is at risk for tornadoes, and everyone in the area should prepare.
  • A tornado warning means that a tornado funnel has been sighted or detected by radar, and everyone should act immediately to seek shelter.
  • A tornado's intense winds are capable of uprooting trees, flattening buildings, and destroying roads. They may also turn debris into projectiles, which can be dangerous for both people and their property.
  • The rating for tornado severity is called the Enhanced Fujita scale with ratings from EF0 to EF5. While it's nearly impossible to accurately measure the speed of a tornado, the EF scale is determined based on an estimated 3-second wind gust.

What is Tornado Alley?

Tornado Alley refers to an area of the central United States where tornadoes are most common, specifically spanning the states of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

The term “tornado alley” was coined in 1952 as the title of a research project to study severe weather spanning Texas and Oklahoma. The main area of tornado alley extends from the northern part of Texas and up through South Dakota, though the official boundaries are not clearly defined.

Tornado Alley in Texas

Texas is a regular tornado hot spot! More tornadoes have been recorded in Texas than in any other state, though that is largely attributed to its size. Still, an average of 132 tornadoes touch down in Texas each year, and over 8,000 have touched down here total. Tornado season in Texas is May and June.

Most occur in the Red River Valley of North Texas with the top five counties affected including Harris, Hale, Galveston, Jefferson, and Nueces. Even if you’re not located in one of these counties, most of Texas and tornado alley is considered at high risk.

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to prepare yourself and your home for a tornado.

Tornado Preparedness 101: Getting your family ready for a tornado

The most important thing to remember when preparing for a tornado is that you need to quickly get yourself and your family to a safe place. In addition to securing a safe shelter, there are a few other things you should include in your tornado preparedness plan.

Here are a few things you should do before a tornado strikes:

Be informed

Do you know the specific risks for your area or type of residence? A huge part of being prepared is being informed about what could happen if a tornado strikes. In addition to being informed, know where to go for the most trusted and up-to-date information and news in the event of an impending disaster.

The National Weather Service is a trusted source of information for tornado warnings. Tune into the NOAA weather radio, which broadcasts weather information 24/7 directly from a nearby National Weather Service office.

Know the signs

Learn how to recognize the signs of a tornado, so you and your family can act fast. Tornado danger signs include a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud; a cloud of debris that's quickly approaching; or a loud, roaring noise that sounds a lot like a freight train.

Make a plan

Develop an emergency tornado preparedness plan with your family ahead of time. If you aren’t together when disaster strikes, everyone should know what to do. Sit down as a family and discuss what you will do if a tornado is approaching when it comes to communication, shelter, and general safety. Don't forget to include any pets in this plan.

You may even want to practice going to a safe shelter. If you don't have a safe room, storm cellar, or storm shelter, the next best option is a small, windowless room on the lowest level in the interior of your home.

If you are not at home when you get a severe weather warning, find the nearest sturdy building and seek shelter in a windowless room on the lowest floor of the building.

Build a tornado preparedness kit

Build a tornado preparedness kit before any severe weather warnings so that you have the essentials ready to go in case of an emergency. Whether you're putting together an emergency preparedness kit for a hurricane, tornado, or power outage, it's important to pack essentials like food, water, flashlights, and extra batteries. 

Additionally, be sure to have first aid supplies, copies of important documents, and medications with you as well. Consider packing essential supplies in a waterproof container for safekeeping, or you can also pack smaller supplies into a backpack if you may need to leave on foot.

Getting your home prepared for a tornado

In addition to the tornado preparedness tips above, there are some other important steps you can take beforehand to prepare your home and the surrounding areas to reduce damage in the event of a severe storm.

Check on your roof

Have you lived in your home for many years? Keep in mind that as shingles age, they are more likely to be weakened when subjected to strong wind or the elements in general.

Older shingles or ones that haven’t been properly installed will more easily allow water to get into your home. If you’re replacing old shingles, look into purchasing impact-resistant shingles for some extra protection.

Tame your trees

There’s nothing more terrifying than a tree trunk or branch becoming a weapon in a tornado… and crashing right into your home. Take care of any broken limbs as soon as possible to avoid potential damage from them in the event of a tornado. You may also want to do some general landscaping to prevent dangerous debris in the event of severe wind.

Know your utilities

On top of a tornado, no one wants to be dealing with a gas or water leak! Make sure you and your family know how to locate and turn off your main utilities, like water, gas, and electricity. If you have enough warning before a tornado, do your best to shut them off to prevent them from being damaged by a tornado and causing further danger and harm. If you have questions or concerns about how to shut them off safely, reach out to the respective utility company for clarification so that you're not left guessing when a tornado is imminent.

Don’t create more flying objects

While not intentional, many of the items in your own front yard could cause significant damage if made airborne in a tornado. When landscaping your yard, consider using mulch instead of rocks or gravel. Make sure that larger structures like sheds can be easily tied down, and secure outdoor patio furniture, grills, toys, and any items you cannot bring indoors when they are not in use.

Reinforce weak spots

It’s no secret that high winds can tear through seemingly sound structures. Take stock of areas outside and around your home where damage could occur from wind and flying debris. Consider reinforcing things like garage doors and windows or any other weak spots you find.

Check your gutters

Similar to trees, no one wants to see a flying gutter! Make sure all of your gutter fasteners are tight and in good shape. If you live in an area where hail regularly occurs, consider upgrading your gutters to steel if you currently have less durable vinyl or aluminum gutters.

Does homeowners insurance cover tornado damage?

The short answer is yes, property insurance policies, like home and homeowners insurance, usually pay to repair or replace your house if it’s damaged or destroyed by a storm, fire, or other covered events. Homeowners' insurance usually also covers personal property and items like furniture and clothes.

In some extreme cases, additional living expenses like rent could be covered if you temporarily have to evacuate or can no longer live in your home due to extensive damage. If you want to confirm that your homeowners' insurance policy covers tornado damage, you'll need to review your policy or contact your insurance agent to confirm.

At the end of the day, insurance can play a critical part in providing you with peace of mind before, during, and after a disaster. In addition to the tornado preparedness steps above, having a home or property insurance policy in place with tornado damage coverage can ensure that you're protected in the event of a severe storm.

A tornado forming above a home during tornado season 
To learn more about Germania Insurance and our products, request a free quote online or reach out to your local Germania Authorized Agent today!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.