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National Weather Service: Prepare for April tornadoes by creating an action plan


April is considered the most active spring month for tornadoes in Alabama. The National Weather Service (NWS) says the State’s primary tornado season is early March to May, with the largest number of tornadoes occurring in the month of April. It was during this month back in 2011 that a tornado outbreak swept through Alabama in 2011 causing devastating fatalities, injuries, and damages.

Daniel Martin is a meteorologist with the NWS in Birmingham. He said to stay safe, it is important for Alabamians to know tornado safety precautions and have a plan in place before severe weather arises. Severe weather knowledge and preparedness is crucial during this time of year. “Folks need to make sure that they're prepared and that they have a way to receive an accurate forecast, that they check up on those forecasts and that they have a place that they intend to take shelter if they're ever under a warning,” Martin said.

National Weather Service

The NWS explains the difference in a tornado watch and warning:

· Tornado Watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in and close to the watch area. A watch is normally issued for a large area covering numerous counties. The watch is intended to give you time to review your safety rules. The sky may be sunny, but weather changes can take place quite rapidly.

Tornado Warning means that a developing tornado has been detected by National Weather Service Doppler Radar or has been reported on the ground by reliable sources. A Tornado Warning is typically issued for a portion of counties at a time and usually lasts no more than 45 minutes. If a Tornado Warning is issued for your county, you should seek shelter immediately. If you see a tornado or feel threatened, move to a safe place immediately, as precious seconds can save your life.

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency gives these steps for preparing for a tornado:

  • Know your area’s tornado risk. In the U.S., the Midwest and the Southeast have a greater risk for tornadoes.
  • Know the signs of a tornado, including a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, an approaching cloud of debris, or a loud roar like a freight train.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts. If your community has sirens, then become familiar with the warning tone.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. Meteorologists can predict when conditions might be right for a tornado.
  • Identify and practice going to a safe shelter such as a safe room built using FEMA criteria or a storm shelter built to ICC 500 standards. The next best protection is a small, interior, windowless room or basement on the lowest level of a sturdy building.
  • Plan for your pet. They are an important member of your family, so they need to be included in your family’s emergency plan.
  • Prepare for long-term stay at home or sheltering in place by gathering emergency supplies, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foodswater, medical supplies and medication.

Meteorologists warn that tornadoes can strike at any time and place, and preparation is imperative. NWS experts say the most important safety precaution is planning ahead. Every household should have an action plan in the case of a tornado warning. This includes knowing where you are located for weather forecast purposes, knowing where to take shelter, and having an emergency kit ready to go at all times.
The NWS informs that the safest place to take shelter inside a home is an interior room without windows on the ground floor or basement. Those living in mobile homes should have a plan to stay with friends or family or find a community shelter in their area.
The CDC says after a tornado, specifically one that has caused much damage, it is important to stay tuned for information from emergency management officials; be aware of possible structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards in your home, stay away from power lines, drink safe water, eat safe food and if you can, help others in need.

Gracie Powell is a student intern at Alabama Public Radio. She is from the small city of Thomasville, AL, planning to graduate from The University of Alabama in May 2026. She is studying Public Relations with a minor study in General Business. In her free time, Gracie loves to listen to music, watch TV and spend time with friends and family.
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