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Tornado's are nature's most violent storms. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. The path of a tornado can be over a mile wide and extend for over 50 miles. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible.

Keep a battery operated radio or television set nearby and listen for weather advisories. Tornado watches and warnings generally are broadcast by Brookings Radio stations (910 AM, 1430 AM, 93.7 FM, 102.3 FM, 107.1 FM), many regional radio stations and the Sioux Falls television stations.

Facts About Tornadoes

  • They may strike quickly with little or no warning
  • Tornadoes typically develop near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm
  • They may appear transparent until dust and debris are picked up or clouds form inside the funnel
  • Typical tornadoes move in the direction of Southwest to Northeast, but they have been known to move in any direction

High Wind Watch

A High Wind Watch is issued when there is the potential of high wind speeds developing that may pose a hazard or is life threatening.

High Wind Advisory

A High Wind Advisory is issued when high wind speeds may pose a hazard.

High Wind Warning

A High Wind Warning is issued when high wind speeds may pose a hazard or is life threatening.

Tornado Watch

The National Weather Service issues a tornado watch when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area. Watches are usually issued for a duration of 4 to 8 hours, and are normally issued well in advance of the actual occurrence of severe weather. When a tornado watch is issued, persons in the watch area should:

  • Monitor local commercial media for tornado emergency information, updates, and instructions
  • Look for approaching storms
  • Look and listen for the following danger signs:
    • Dark, often greenish sky (large hail)
    • A large, dark, low-lying cloud - particularly if rotating
    • A loud, rumbling roar similar to a freight train

If you see an approaching storm, or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Tornado Warning

The National Weather Service issues a tornado warning when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters. People in the affected area should seek safe shelter immediately. Warnings can be issued without a Tornado Watch being already in effect. They are usually issued for a duration of around 30 minutes. The Brookings city sirens are activated when a tornado is sighted nearby. When a tornado warning is issued or the siren sound, persons should seek shelter immediately.

Procedures if on Campus

If the warning occurs during the daytime hours, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.:

  • Employees and students in the open are to seek shelter in the nearest permanent building, going directly to the basement if possible, or to central corridors away from windows and exterior doors.
  • Employees and students in campus buildings are to move out of the exterior rooms and into central corridors or the basement, if possible.
  • Orderly movement is essential. Do not panic.

If the warning occurs after class hours or during the evening:

  • Anyone in the open should seek shelter in the nearest building. Most of the main campus buildings are open until 10:00 P.M., Monday through Friday.
  • Persons in outside rooms should move away from windows into the corridor or to the basement, if possible.

Residence hall students:

  • Residence hall directors will alert all students in the hall, unlock entrance doors and doors to the basement and turn on lights.
  • Students are advised to move from their rooms into the central corridors or to basements.
  • If possible, have a flashlight and portable radio tuned to a local radio station.
  • Do not call the police department for information. Listen to the radio for announcements.

Residents of State Court:

  • Residents of State Court are to go to the basement of Pierson Hall. Pierson Hall personnel will have entrance doors unlocked.

Residents of State Village:

  • Residents of State Village are to go to the basement of Binnewies Hall. Binnewies Hall personnel will have the exterior doors unlocked.

Off Campus

If indoors:

  • Go to a pre-designated safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway)
  • Stay away from the corners, windows, doors, and outside walls
  • Put as many walls (and levels above) as possible between you and the outside
  • Get under a sturdy table and cover your neck and head with your arms
  • Do not open doors or windows

If in a vehicle:

  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy building. If there is no nearby building still get out - remaining inside a vehicle during a tornado is extremely dangerous.
  • Outrunning a tornado is advisable only if in a rural and uncongested location - never try to outrun a tornado from and urban or congested location.

If outside with no available shelter:

  • Lie flat in a ditch or depression covering the head with hands and arms - beware of potential flooding.
  • Do not get under a bridge or overpass - it is safer in a low flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris in the funnel - any object as small as a piece of straw can become fatal when traveling at several hundred miles per hour.

After a Tornado

  • Check yourself and those around you for injuries.
  • Evacuate damaged buildings. Do not re-enter until declared safe by authorities.
  • If you or others are injured, Call the University Police Department at 688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone), or if residing off campus, call 911
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound indoors, open windows and leave the building. Do not use matches, candles, open flames or electric switches indoors. Call the University Police Department at 688-5117 or 111 (from an on campus phone), or if residing off campus, call 911
  • Monitor your portable or weather radio for instructions or an official all clear notice. Radio stations will broadcast what to do, the location of emergency shelters, medical aid stations, and the extent of damage.