Severe Weather

Severe Weather Information

Although spring-like weather and storms arrived early this year with an unprecedented tornado warning in February, the most active time for tornadoes is approaching. Please make or review your plan for safety in the event of severe weather. Following is some helpful information adapted from the National Weather Service, Red Cross and campus safety officials.

Tornadoes are violent and can demolish well-made structures, uproot trees and hurl heavy objects through the air. Severe tornadoes are most common in the central or plains states, yet happen anywhere, including Indiana. In a tornado warning, county authorities will activate outdoor warning sirens and NDAlert messages will be used when campus is threatened. Local media outlets and the US government’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) program will also broadcast the warning.

What to do when a tornado warning has sounded:

  • Move immediately to safe shelter in the nearest substantial building.
  • Go to the basement for the best protection. If you cannot get to a basement, go to an interior room (bathroom/shower) or hallway on the lowest floor possible. Avoid windows, large rooms, auditoriums or gymnasiums. In a high-rise building, pick a hallway in the center of the building. You may not have enough time to go to the lowest floor.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside when possible.
  • Get under sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or heavy table or desk and hold on to it.
  • Avoid large open rooms, if possible.
  • Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands.
  • Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with thick padding, such as a mattress or blanket to protect against falling debris and flying objects in case the roof and ceiling fall.
  • Faculty, staff, and students should remain in a safe location until advised that it is safe to return to work or study areas when the tornado or severe weather has passed. An all clear is broadcast via local media and through the NDAlert public address system.

More information about severe weather

Tornado “weather” is an atmospheric condition typified by hot, humid days, southerly winds and darkening skies. Huge greenish-black thunderclouds usually appear an hour or two before tornadoes form. Rain, and frequently hail, precede and follow tornadoes. When close by, tornadoes sound like the roar of jet planes at takeoff. A tornado is recognizable by the funnel-shaped cloud. It spins rapidly (with whirling winds which exceed 300 miles per hour on the perimeter) and extends toward the earth from the base of a thundercloud. When it touches down, it is often 300 yards wide. Its destructive force results from the speed of its exterior winds and the vacuum in its interior which creates large differences in air pressure.

A severe thunderstorm watch means that damaging winds and hail are expected. It often precedes the issuance of a tornado watch.

A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes. (WATCHES may be issued frequently. Except for keeping informed via radio or television, they do not require immediate action).

A tornado warning requires immediate action—move to a safe shelter--because a tornado has been sighted, either visually or on radar and is in our area!

When a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, the St. Joseph County Civil Defense tornado warning system will activate the siren atop the North Dining Hall. For tornadoes, the siren issues a steady tone for three to five minutes. The siren will not issue an all clear. All clear signals are issued by the National Weather Service via local AM/FM radio and television station announcements. Warning sirens are tested at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month and consist of a one-minute steady tone, one minute of silence and a one-minute wailing tone.

Additional resources

For more information visit the follow websites or contact the Office of Campus Safety via email at