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Office of Environmental Health and Safety
Tornado Procedures

Tornado Self Protection

When a tornado warning is issued for your area or if you spot a tornado, seek shelter in a substantial building.  The safest place is in an interior bathroom, office, hallway or classroom.  Put as many walls between you and the outside as possible.  Stay away from windows as debris kicked around by a tornado can easily shatter a window and enter the building.

If you are caught outdoors, seek shelter in a low spot like a ditch or culvert.  You want to get as low as possible to protect yourself from all of the flying debris in a tornado.  The debris within the tornado is what causes nearly all of the injuries and deaths.  If in your car, abandon your vehicle and seek shelter in a substantial structure or in a ditch.  Never try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.  Never seek shelter from a tornado under an overpass.  Tornadoes do not always travel in straight lines and it can be very difficult to determine what direction the tornado is moving.

North Carolina Tornado Facts

TORNADO is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of all Carolinians.  Violent tornadoes with winds in excess of 150 mph have struck the state as early as March and as late as November.  

On April 16, 2011 the largest tornado outbreak in state history swept across central and eastern North Carolina, impacted more than 30 counties, claimed 24 lives, injured 133 people, destroyed and damaged thousands of homes and businesses.

The second worst outbreak occurred March 28th, 1984 when violent tornadoes tracked across Red Spring, Kenansville, Kinston, and the Greenville area resulting in many fatalities and injuries.  Strong to violent tornadoes have occurred across the state over the past years resulting in numerous injuries and 28 million dollars in damages.

Tornadoes can occur virtually any time of the year.  However, North Carolina's primary tornado threat occurs in the spring from March through early June.  A secondary peak occurs in the summer, primarily associated with land falling tropical cyclones.

A study ranks North Carolina with the highest percentage of fatalities from nighttime tornadoes.  Since 1950, 82 percent of tornado fatalities have occurred at night even though only 28 percent of all tornadoes touched down during this time.