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When Is It Safe To Come Out of a Tornado Shelter After a Tornado Warning?

image of a woman coming out of a tornado shelter after a tornado

Tornado warnings and when it's safe to come out.

Being under a tornado warning is a stressful time.

The thought of your home being damaged, eerie sirens screaming, and deep concern for your family by themselves is enough to get your blood pressure up. But, being in an unfamiliar location such as a bathtub, closet, basement or even one of our shelters and the stress really rises.

So, it is understandable that people wish to end the experience as soon as possible. But there are incidents from 1991 all the way to 2022 where people have gotten hurt from ending their sheltering too soon.

How do you know when it is safe to come out from shelter?

tornado warning expiration image

Every tornado warning from the National Weather Service (NWS) comes with an expiration time. There are many apps that will give you the raw NWS warnings such as AccuWeather’s, The Weather Channel’s, and others. 

 

accuweather warning image

As the tornado situation is monitored, the NWS will update the warning and any revision in expiration time will be stated. Because there is sometimes a lag in NWS communications, wait two minutes after the expiration time. If no additional tornado warning is issued, you are good to go!

 

Sometimes, you can safely leave earlier. The NWS will move tornado warnings with the storms. 

original tornado warning image
revised tornado warning image - west cleared of tornadoes

The images above are of a tornado warning, and then a revised tornado warning. In the revised warning, only the western area cleared early.

After the revised warning, if your area is no longer in the polygon, it is safe to leave shelter early. Great!

One thing you cannot count on is an “all-clear” from a tornado siren. I’m not aware of any jurisdiction that still sounds a siren all-clear. Those went out with the 20th Century.

You also cannot count on how light it might be through a window nor how much lightning is occurring. Use the official National Weather Service times expiration times.

Always remember, stock your shelter with:

  • Old shoes
  • A couple of bottles of water
  • Diapers
  • Heirlooms
  • A radio with fresh batteries. Bring your smartphone into shelter with you.

Let's hope the tornadoes stay well away from you.

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