Reconsidering tornado tips

Going to the basement isn’t enough; that much we’ve learned after Sunday’s tornadoes in Minnesota and, in particular, Iowa.

Consider this from an AP report just filed:

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Haylock said most of those killed in Parkersburg were in basements. All were adults, he said.

That prompted us to take another look at the tornado survival tips:

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you.

On a related front: Check out this picture MPR’s Tom Weber just sent down from Hugo.


.. and this actually is someone’s basement…


  • Mary Sebas

    As a kid, we were told to go to the SOUTHWEST corner of the basement away from the windows. My assumption was that storms move from the SW to NE. Does anyone know if this is the reasoning? I haven’t heard directional advisce given in current tornado tips.

  • Bob Collins

    According to the Online Tornado FAQ, Mary:

    I have a basement, and my friend said to go to the southwest corner in a tornado. Is that good?

    Not necessarily. The SW corner is no safer than any other part of the basement, because walls, floors and furniture can collapse (or be blown) into any corner. The “safe southwest corner” is an old myth based on the belief that, since tornadoes usually come from the SW, debris will preferentially fall into the NE side of the basement. There are several problems with this concept, including:

    1. Tornadoes are not straight-line winds, even on the scale of a house, so the strongest wind may be blowing from any direction; and

    2. Tornadoes themselves may arrive from any direction.

    In a basement, the safest place is under a sturdy workbench, mattress or other such protection — and out from under heavy furniture or appliances resting on top of the floor above