Inclement Weather: Know the Terminology

When severe weather threatens, it is important to have a plan to stay safe. Your plan should begin with an understanding of what the National Weather Service watches and warning mean. You should also know what to do in the event of severe weather, and where the designated safe areas on campus are located.

Severe Thunderstorm Watch

When a severe thunderstorm watch is issued, this means that weather conditions are favorable for the formation of thunderstorms which could become severe.

There is typically no immediate threat. However, you should keep a radio, television, or weather radio nearby and be prepared to move to a safe location should weather conditions change.

Tornado Watch

When a tornado watch is issued, this means that weather conditions are favorable for the formation of severe thunderstorms that could produce a tornado.

There is typically no immediate threat. However, keep a radio, television or weather monitor turned on. Be prepared to move to the safest location should weather conditions change.

Remember: sometimes tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado such as a dark, often greenish sky, large hail, or a loud roar similar to a freight train. If any of these conditions are observed, seek shelter immediately, whether a warning has been issued or not!

Severe Thunderstorm Warning

If a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued, this means that a thunderstorm capable of producing hail, damaging winds, and dangerous lightening is occurring or is imminent.

When a warning has been issued, you should:

  • Immediately move to a safe place. Fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing provide the best protection. Sheds, picnic shelters, tents or covered porches do not protect you from lightning. If a sturdy building is not nearby, get into a hard-topped metal vehicle and close all the windows.
  • Avoid using a corded telephone, and keep away from electrical equipment, wiring and water pipes (including showers, bathtubs, and sinks).
  • Stay away from windows and doorways.

If you are caught outside during a severe thunderstorm, try to get inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle as fast as you can. There is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm!

If you aren't able to find shelter:

  • Avoid open areas and stay away from isolated tall trees, towers, or utility poles. Do not be the tallest object in the area! Lightening tends to strike the tallest objects.
  • Stay away from objects that conduct metal, such as wires or fences.

Tornado Warning

If a tornado warning has been issued, this means that the National Weather Service radar has detected rotation within a storm, a funnel cloud has been observed, or a tornado is actually on the ground.

When a tornado warning is issued you should:

  • Seek shelter immediately! When seeking shelter, avoid large open rooms such as auditoriums and gymnasiums and other locations with large windows.
  • A basement is generally the safest place to go. If there is no basement, seek an interior room on a lower floor of reinforced building.
  • If possible, abandon mobile homes for more substantial shelter. Mobile homes provide little to no shelter from tornadic winds.
  • Lie low with hands covering the back of your head to reduce head and neck injury.
  • If you are outside, lie in a ditch or low area, covering your neck and head. If there is time, proceed to the nearest safe building.
  • Do not seek shelter in a vehicle! Vehicles do not provide protection from tornadic winds. If you are trapped in a vehicle during a tornado you have two options:
    • Stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. Cover your head, and keep it down below the level of the windows.
    • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car, and lie down in that area, covering your head.
    Your choice should be determined by your specific circumstances.


During periods of heavy rainfall, there is always a potential for flooding to occur. You should:

  • Avoid driving, walking, or swimming in flood waters.
  • Stay away from high water, storm drains, ditches, ravines, or culverts. As little as six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet.
  • Never attempt to drive through flood waters! It only takes 18 inches of water to lift most vehicles. Once a vehicle becomes buoyant; the water will easily push it sideways. Most will then tend to roll over, trapping those inside and washing them downstream. TURN AROUND, DON'T DROWN.