Tornado Sheltering

Sheltering in a Tornado Event
The City of Roanoke does not have public storm shelters. While they may seem like a good idea, they often come with more risks than benefits to residents:
  • If a storm wakes you at 2 a.m., you likely won't have enough time to gather your family, load them into a car, and drive to a storm shelter. Sheltering in place affords you the quickest and best protection for a short notice event.
  • Opening public buildings as storm shelters gives a false sense of security and offer no more protection than a well-built residential structure.
  • Traveling to a public storm shelter could put you at greater risk than if you sheltered in place. Traffic is likely to get congested if everyone is heading toward 1 location. Plus, your vehicle is one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado.

Shelter in Place

We encourage all of our citizens to maintain situational awareness during severe weather events and be prepared to shelter in place if necessary. Even though tornadoes can appear with little or no notice, local television meteorologists keep us well informed of the severe weather potential normally days in advance. Here are basic tornado safety tips that will help you find the most ideal location to shelter during a storm.

Basic Tornado Safety

  • At school, follow plans and go to a designated shelter area, usually interior hallways on the lowest floor. Avoid auditoriums, gyms and areas with wide, free-span roofs.
  • If you are in a mobile home, get out and take shelter in a nearby building. If there is none, lie flat in a ditch or ravine.
  • If you are in open country, take cover in a low spot away from trees.
  • In a shopping center, move towards the interior away from exterior glass walls.
  • In an office building, go to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor.
  • Learn the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning:
    • A Tornado Warning means a tornado is on the ground, and you must seek shelter immediately.
    • A Tornado Watch means atmospheric conditions are conducive for the possible formation of a tornado.
  • Never shelter under a bridge.
  • Never stay inside a car. Get out and lie flat in a ditch or a ravine. If a building is nearby, take shelter inside. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car.
  • Seek shelter in an interior room on the lowest floor of your home, such as a bathroom, closet, or a room without windows. Cover yourself with a mattress or cushions.