This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota, and today's focus is understanding tornadoes.

tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Tornadoes are capable of completely destroying well-made structures, uprooting trees, and hurling objects through the air like deadly missiles. Tornadoes can occur at any time of day or night, at any time of the year, and in all 50 states.

Before the Tornado

Tornado watches highlight the area where tornadoes are most likely to develop. Continue with your normal activities, but keep informed of the latest weather information and be ready to get to shelter in case tornadoes develop quickly.

In the Home

Go to the basement if possible. Get under a table, work bench, or some other sturdy furniture to avoid falling debris. A stairwell is also a good place to hide during a tornado.

If You Cannot Get to a Basement

Go to a small interior room on the lowest floor. Closets, bathrooms, and interior halls afford the best protection in most cases, or try to hide under a bed. Get under something sturdy or cover yourself with blankets. Stay away from windows.

National Weather Service

In an Apartment, School or Office Building

Move to the inner-most room on the lowest level or to a pre-designated shelter area. Stay away from windows. If in a hallway, crouch down and protect your head from flying debris. Avoid areas with glass and large roof expansions.

In a Mobile Home, Car, Truck or Other Vehicle

Abandon these as quickly as possible. Seek a sturdy shelter or permanent structure. Remember that many deaths occur when people try to drive away in a vehicle, but get caught in the deadly winds. Avoid bridges since they act as wind tunnels.

Severe Weather Awareness Week concludes tomorrow with a focus on extreme heat.

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