6 Signs a Tornado Is Coming

· Reading Time: 4 minutes



When a tornado touches down near you, will you be ready?

Although tornadoes tend to stay east of the Rocky Mountains, they have also occurred in pretty much every state. In other words, you could be affected no matter where you live. This means that tornadoes should be on everyone’s list as something to be prepared for.

So I ask again: Will you be ready when the time comes?

Animals Flying
Watch out for flying livestock!

When I think of tornadoes, my first thought is a funnel cloud hurling cows through the air. I’ve never been around a real tornado, but the movie Twister definitely prepared me for flying bovine should I ever find myself near one.

And then, after the image of the cow flies off into the sunset, I ask myself, “What do I actually know about tornadoes, and how will I know if one is coming?”

Great questions, Self.

As tornadoes tend to start showing up more prevalently in the spring (and spring has just about sprung), let me share with you how to know if a tornado is on its way for a visit.

Of course, the easiest way is to have your TV or radio on. Your local broadcasters will broadcast a tornado warning (right in the middle of your favorite show, might I add). Those tend to come only about 13 minutes before the actual tornado, and can actually come much faster. That being said, not every area will receive a broadcast warning, so knowing the signs of an imminent tornado is very important.

Although tornadoes can be massive and devastating, they at least have the decency to give us a few warning signs before they officially arrive. These six signs should help you identify tornado threats.

  1. A Rotating, funnel shaped cloud extending from a thunderstorm towards the ground.

Funnel Cloud

Alright, so this one is one of the more obvious ones. Tornadoes have to form somewhere, so if you see a funnel cloud beginning to form, this is a very good sign a tornado is on its way. When the weather gets rough, you might want to keep your eye on the sky, just in case.

  1. A dark, sometimes green, sky

green sky

Not to be confused with the aurora borealis (aka the Northern lights). This is another reason why it’s good to watch the skies during storms. There is a lot of hail in thunderstorms associated with tornadoes, and so as this hail begins to be whipped around, the light of the sun refracts off the hail, giving the sky a green tint. The sky isn’t always green, however, so don’t be fooled if the sky is just very, very dark.

  1. An approaching cloud of debris

Sometimes the funnel of a tornado will not be visible. Yet. By noticing a cloud of debris approaching (especially at ground level), that can be a good sign that something even more dangerous is on its way.

  1. A loud roar (similar to a freight train)

This is especially useful if you don’t live near a railroad. Tornadoes give off a continuous rumble, much like that of a train. Other loud noises come from the velocity of the winds, as well as all the debris the tornado is hurling around and smashing into.

  1. A strange calm after a thunderstorm

It is not uncommon for a tornado to occur after a thunderstorm. Do not be surprised if you see a clear, calm sky in the tornado’s wake.

  1. Debris falling from the sky

This is also a good indicator that there are strong winds nearby. If debris starts falling from the sky like rain, chances are you’ll want to seek cover.

Are you prepared for a tornado’s devastation?

So there you have it. If you keep these six things in mind before and during storms, you shouldn’t be caught off guard by a tornado.

Remember, when a tornado warning comes, you won’t have much time to prepare. If there is a tornado warning today, the time to prepare was yesterday. Be sure to have your emergency kits packed and ready to go before you even think you need them. For ideas as to what should be included in an emergency kit, check out this article at ready.gov. Or, if you’d rather get an emergency kit already put together, check out our selection here.


Let us know how you prepare for tornadoes in the comments below!



56 Responses

  • I have lived my entire life in tornado country. In early spring I put any keepsakes or valuables in the basement of the house along with heavy duty shoes/boots and a change of clothing. My bug out bag is already there along with a wrench to shut off the gas and water. A lot of tornados happen at night so having a change of clothes and good strong footwear in the shelter is critical. In the aftermath of a tornado there will be glass, tree branches, nails etc. You don’t want to be walking around barefoot or in pajamas and slippers.

    • thanks for the information about tornadoes but there has been a thunderstorm just 2 minutes ago and now the storm is calm it lasted 30 minutes bu i am going to follow your advice. thanks alot.????????????????

      • Just bc it was calm doesnt mean theres a tornado comming the sky has to be clear of clouds and it has to be just a nice blue sky then u know its comming

        • Hey y’all! So I just moved to Mississippi for school from Louisiana, so obviously tornados atent the first thing I think about. However, I have PTSD from losing my house in Hurricane Gustav in whatcha we suspect had to be a small tornado. As the frequency of tornadoes in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is increasing, you can see how this makes me a little uneasy. For instance, today it should rain all day according to forecasts, but i can’t shake this uneasy feeling! People from or living on the tornado zone of America, I might just be overreacting, but is there any more advice you can give me? Just thinks like: on a day like this where more than 10 hours of rain is expected, should I prepare for a possible tornado? If it helps, there are no systems in the gulf right now. I figured that would be important info since Hattiesburg is just an hour away from the coast. I’m also from Baton Rouge. Thanks!

          • We appreciate you checking out articles that “fit” you and reaching out for suggestions. These types of natural disasters happens and is unavoidable in such areas. Some of the best advice we could give you is to simply to make sure you have plenty of food storage to sustain you in any type of natural disaster, and make sure to keep it stored in a safe space, such as a lower level storage area or basement.

    • Hey I am Faith and I live on the Eastwrn edge of Tornado Ally. We have had tornados hot all around us but they have always been at night sowecoulsnwverswe them coming. Right now though it is 3:40 In the afternoon and we just had a thunderstorm and were issued a tornado watch. The sky has become increasingly dark but there is no wind… Do you think there is a tornado?

      • That definitely sounds like a good time to be prepared with your emergency storage Faith. If you don’t have much or its been a while since you’ve added to it you can reach us at 800.999.1863 or order on Beprepared.com. We also advise keeping up to date with your local weather channels for updates, and good luck!

  • Tornado clouds will form fingers. These are actually small tornadoes that have not yet touched the ground. So the shape of the cloud can also provide clues.

    We were hit by tornadoes around 7 years ago. It is incredible the amount of damage it can cause. The most useful item I had after the tornadoes struck was my chainsaw. It destroyed around 50 of my large trees either by breaking them in half like twigs or completely uprooting them. Generally after a tornado strikes most people have the mistaken belief that the government will come in and fix things. In my experience, recovery was done by the individual, a few close friends and neighbors and the electrical power company.

    • Well tornados can be some very dangerous frightful things to be true.. A tornado is pretty similar to a funnel cloud. A tornados way of forming is when a lot of cold and warm air chase each other. As I have to say so myself tornados are a scary thing.

    • I think that is amazing that it help you and your friends also I looked at this last bought and it told me that we are going to have a tornado and we did

  • I live in Kansas and the other day, there was a tornado heading our direction, but it went to another state, but if it starts hailing during a thunderstorm and suddenly ice starts falling instead, is that a sign of a tornado? I think I read it somewhere, but I want to be sure since I am kind of paranoid especially since it has been raining for almost 2 days.

  • Hi! I have a question. I live on the very top of a large cliff, and our basement is built into it, however it’s got a door to the outside, which is sort of the bottom of the cliff (it slants). Am I totally screwed even in my own basement? Or am I still safe?

  • Well i live in pennsalvania and i live in the part where you dont really get tornados and im just absolutely terrified of storms thunderstorms everything and rn its about to storm at my house and i always think a tornado is going to come give me some tips cause im getting anxiety from it

  • Tornadoes need warm juicy air at ground level to live. The water in the air turns to ice at low pressure inside a funnel . this sudden drop in air temp lowers air pressure locally and keep a tornado alive. without the warm juicy air at ground level none of that happens. So, hail stones are a great indication the conditions have been met.

  • Tornadoes are very dangerous big huge scary. My encounter with a tornado was when I was riding my bike with my brother everything felt different like we were in another world the wind stopped and then black clouds wind super fast sound like a fright train I made it to my friends house

  • I barely survived a tornado that hit my house in Acworth, Ga. I had no warning until it went black in the house. I made it to the basement front wall but the brick came in on top of me and I was knocked out. They also sound like a large jet engine. Watch out for quick changes in temperatures in the Spring and Fall in the South!

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