Missouri Tornado and Storm Shelters

Tornadoes are a seasonal occurrence in the state of Missouri due to its unique geography and weather patterns. The central United States, sometimes referred to as “tornado alley,” is where warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cool, dry air from the Rockies. This clash creates ideal conditions for thunderstorms and tornadoes.

  • The deadliest tornado in Missouri’s history occurred on May 22, 2011, when an EF5 tornado hit Joplin, killing 158 people and causing $2.8 billion in damages.
  • The first recorded tornado in Missouri occurred on April 18, 1808, in the St. Louis area.
  • On March 18, 1925, the deadliest tornado outbreak in Missouri history occurred, with 19 tornadoes touching down in the state and killing 101 people.
  • In May 1957, a storm system in Missouri and Illinois produced 46 tornadoes, resulting in 23 deaths and 400 injuries.
  • In May 1973, a tornado outbreak in Missouri and five other states produced 29 tornadoes, killing three people and injuring 216.
  • The most active month for tornadoes in Missouri is May, followed by April and June.
  • The average number of tornadoes in Missouri each year is 29.
  • Missouri has experienced at least one tornado in every month of the year, although the highest frequency of tornadoes occurs between March and August.
Documented Missouri tornadoes since 1950
Missouri Tornado Map

Preparing for Tornadoes in Missouri 

Tornadoes are a natural disaster that can strike at any moment, and in Missouri, they have a history of causing significant damage. As such, it is crucial for Missourians to prepare themselves and their homes for tornadoes.

One of the most important aspects of tornado preparation is having an emergency plan in place. This plan should include a designated safe space within your home, such as a basement or storm shelter, where you and your family can go during a tornado. You should also have a way to receive weather alerts, whether it be through a weather radio, smartphone app, or local news outlet. Another option is a location-based alert system, like StormWarn, which sends you a notification when your home is in the dangerous “polygon” area determined by the National Weather Service for each storm. This avoids the feeling that you’ve sheltered as a “false alarm” when the area that received a warning was actually much larger than the affected area.

Another important aspect of tornado preparation is ensuring that your home is structurally sound. While most people won’t go to the trouble and expense of having reinforced windows and doors, it is a good idea to make sure they can withstand high winds and that your home’s roof is in good shape. Be sure to secure outdoor items such as patio furniture and grills that could become dangerous projectiles in high winds.

It is also essential to have an emergency kit stocked with supplies such as non-perishable food, water, first aid items, and a flashlight in case of power outages. Luckily, most people spend only a few hours in a tornado shelter, so a large stockpile isn’t needed. It's all part of your family's tornado preparedness plan

By taking the time to prepare for tornadoes, residents of Missouri can help ensure that they and their families are ready to face this natural disaster.


Tornado Shelters Near Me in Missouri 

If you are looking for public tornado shelters in Missouri, there are several resources that can help you locate them:

  1. Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) - Each county in Missouri has an EMA that can provide information on public tornado shelters in your area. 
  2. The American Red Cross operates nine chapters in the state of Missouri. You can find a list of Red Cross shelters in Missouri by contacting your local Red Cross chapter.
  3. Local Government - Many municipalities in Missouri have public tornado shelters, such as community centers or schools. Contact your local city or county government to inquire about public tornado shelters in your area.
  4. FEMA - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides funding and resources for tornado shelters in communities across the United States. You can search for FEMA-compliant tornado shelters in Missouri on their website.
  5. Local news outlets may also publish the locations of public tornado shelters leading up to storm season. Be proactive - call and ask if they have that information!  

Overall, it is important to do research and plan ahead to ensure that you know where to go in case of a tornado. Being aware of the public tornado shelters in your area can help keep you and your family safe during a severe weather event.

Missouri  Tornado Safety Tips

By following these tornado safety tips, Missouri residents can help protect themselves and their families during severe weather events.

  1. Have a family tornado plan in place: Develop an emergency plan with your family, and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of a tornado. Identify the safest place in your home, such as a basement or interior room on the lowest level, and practice taking shelter there.  
  2. Stay informed: Monitor weather forecasts and have a way to receive weather alerts, such as a weather radio or smartphone app. Listen to local news or radio for updates and instructions from authorities. Consider a [location-based tornado alert system] that will tell you when you need to get into your shelter. https://survive-a-storm.com/stormwarn/
  3. Seek shelter immediately when your home is in the path of a tornado warning. Go to your designated storm shelter, or an interior room of your home with no windows. If you are outside, find a sturdy building or shelter immediately.
  4. If you’re sheltering in a room that isn’t a storm shelter, consider covering yourself with a mattress or blankets to protect yourself from flying debris. Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet in case of broken glass or debris on the ground.
  5. Stay away from windows, as they can shatter and cause injury. 
  6. Stay in your safe place until authorities give the all-clear. Do not leave the safe area to check for tornado damage until you know you're out of danger.
  7. Have a well-stocked emergency kit with essentials such as non-perishable food, water, a flashlight, and a first aid kit in case of power outages or injuries.
  8. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to take shelter quickly if necessary. Tornadoes can develop rapidly and are unpredictable. 
missouri tips safety

Missouri  Tornado Shelter  FAQs

Q: What is the difference between a public tornado shelter and a private tornado shelter?
A: A public tornado shelter is a facility that is open to the general public during severe weather events, while a private tornado shelter is owned and maintained by an individual or organization for their own use. Some larger businesses maintain shelters and allow the public to access them, but they may have restrictions on them. 

Q: How can I determine if there is a tornado shelter in my Missouri neighborhood?
A: The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) provides a search tool on their website where you can find the emergency coordinator for you county. They should have an updated listing if there are public shelters in your county. (Not all counties have public shelters.) 

Q: What is the typical capacity of a public tornado shelter in Missouri, and how many people can it accommodate?
A: The capacity of public tornado shelters in Missouri varies depending on the location and size of the facility. They typically can accommodate anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred people. 

Q: Are there any requirements or regulations that must be met to build a tornado shelter in Missouri?
A: Yes, tornado shelters in Missouri must meet certain building codes and standards to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Regulations vary depending on the location and type of shelter.

Q: What is the cost of building a tornado shelter, and are there any financial assistance programs in Missouri available to help cover the costs?
A: The cost of building a tornado shelter in Missouri can vary widely depending on the size and type of shelter. Financial assistance programs are available through FEMA and other organizations to help cover the costs for eligible individuals and communities.

Q: Are public tornado shelters in Missouri accessible to people with disabilities?
A: Public tornado shelters in Missouri are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

Q: How do I properly maintain and prepare a tornado shelter for the upcoming tornado season?
A: Regular maintenance and upkeep of tornado shelters are important to ensure their safety and effectiveness. This can include inspecting the shelter for damage, keeping it clean and free of debris, and restocking any necessary supplies.

Q: What should I bring with me to a public tornado shelter, and what amenities can I expect to find there?
A: It is recommended that you bring a small emergency kit with you to a public tornado shelter, including food, water, and any necessary medications. Public tornado shelters will likely have basic necessities such as restrooms, lighting, and seating.

Q: What are the procedures for accessing a public tornado shelter in Missouri during a severe weather event?
A: During a severe weather event, local emergency management officials will provide guidance and instructions on how to access public tornado shelters. It is important to listen to these instructions and follow them to ensure your safety.