Tornadoes occur most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Although these violent tornadoes comprise about 2% of tornado occurrences, some Kansas tornadoes have the potential to be the most violent. Kansas has averaged 53 tornadoes annually since 1950 when the National Weather Service in Topeka started keeping statistics. The most tornadoes recorded were in 1991 when 116 tornadoes were documented throughout the state.


Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to "explode" as the tornado passes overhead.

Windows should be opened before a tornado approached to equalize pressure and minimize damage.


No place is 100% guaranteed safe from a tornado. In the late 1980's, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000-foot mountain.

Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.

Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place.



  • Have a pre-designated safety spot.
  • Go to the lowest level possible in a structure. 
  • Put as many walls between you and the outside as you can.
  • Avoid windows and glass.
  • In a basement stay under the center support beam, a stairwell, or heavy piece of furniture for protection from falling debris. Stay out of corners; debris often collects in corners.
  • If you have no area below ground level, utilize a hallway closing doors off to outside rooms. Any small interior room (a bathroom or closet) away from outside walls and windows would be preferable to large or rooms with outside walls.  

 Outside or homes of modular construction

Get to a safe shelter if possible. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car. If caught in the open leave a vehicle and go to a low-lying area such as a ditch or ravine. Lie flat and cover your head. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be abandoned.

The installation of a safe room can drastically increase your family's protection from the dangers of tornadoes. A safe room is a small windowless shelter, such as a closet or a bathroom, which is readily accessible from all parts of your home. It is best to have them put in when constructing a new house, but can be added afterwards as well. The safe room is a good idea because it creates a designated safe zone so that everyone knows where to go in case there is a need to seek shelter. Learn more about a Safe Room.