Skip Navigation Links 
NOAA logo - Click to go to the NOAA homepage National Weather Service Forecast Office   NWS logo - Click to go to the NWS homepage
NWS Cleveland, Ohio
navigation bar image

Local forecast by
"City, St" is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state, and local government web resources and services.

Severe Weather Safety Guide

Severe weather can take on many shapes and forms. Here are some safety tips you should use as threatening weather approaches:

Tornado Safety

Tornadoes are the most violent atmospheric phenomenon on the face of the earth. Winds have been estimated close to 300 mph in large tornadoes. Although Ohio's number of tornadoes does not rank high in the United States, we do average around 16 tornadoes a year. Many of these tornadoes are weak (EF0 or EF1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale), but Ohio has been struck by some of the most destructive (F5)tornadoes ever, including the April 3, 1974 tornado at Xenia, which killed over 30 people and destroyed 2,000 buildings. The following instructions are what to do when a tornado threatens your area:


  • Go to the basement or to an interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom.Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or wrap yourself in blankets or towels to protect yourself from flying debris.


  • Leave the mobile home and go to a substantial structure, such as a designated storm shelter. If no substantial structure is accessible, follow the rules below when caught outdoors.


  • Go to interior rooms or halls on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as an auditoriums and warehouses.


  • Go to interior small rooms or halls. Stay away from exterior walls or glassy areas.


  • Seek shelter in a basement, shelter, or sturdy building. If you cannot quickly walk to a shelter:
    • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
    • If flying debris occurs while you are driving, pull over and park. Now you have the following options as a last resort:
      • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering with your hands and a blanket if possible.
      • If you can safely get noticeably lower that the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in the nearest ditch or depression and use your hands to cover your head and neck.
  • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances. The important thing to understand is that if you find yourself outside or in a car with a tornado approaching and you are unable to get to a safe shelter, you are at risk from a number of things outside your control, such as the strength and path of the tornado and debris from your surroundings. This is the case whether you stay in your car or seek shelter in a depression or ditch, both of which are considered last resort options that provide little protection. The safest place to be is in an underground shelter, basement, or safe room.

Flash Flood Safety

Flash Floods are the #1 weather related killer in the United States with around 140 deaths recorded each year. Flash Floods can happen anywhere at anytime. Ohio's terrain only supports flash floods, especially in Southeast Ohio. In fact one of the most famous flash floods ever occurred at Shady Side where a 30 ft. wall of water killed several people. Here are some Flash Flood Safety rules:


  • If ordered to evacuate or if rising water is threatening, leave immediately and get to higher ground!


  • Go to higher ground immediately! Avoid small rivers or streams, low spots, dry riverbeds, etc.
  • Do not try to walk through flowing water more than ankle deep.
  • Do not allow children to play around streams, drainage ditches or viaducts, storm drains,or other flooded areas!


  • #1 RULE- DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH FLOODED AREAS! Even if it looks shallow enough to cross. The large majority of deaths due to flash flooding occur with people driving through flooded areas. Water only a foot deep can displace a 1500 lb. vehicle!Two feet of water can easily carry most automobiles! Roads concealed by water may not be intact.

Lightning Safety

Lightning causes around 100 deaths in the U.S. annually. Lightning safety rules:


  • Stay away from windows
  • Avoid using the telephone (except for emergencies) or other electrical appliances.
  • Do not take a bath or shower.


  • Go to safe shelter immediately! This includes a building or a hard top car with the window up.
  • If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.
  • If you feel your hair standing on end, squat as shown in the diagram below with your head between your knees. DO NOT LIE FLAT!
  • AVOID:isolated trees or other tall objects, bodies of water, sheds, fences, convertible automobiles, tractors, and motorcycles.

Winter Storm Safety

Winter Storms are considered to be America's deceptive killers because people don't think of the dangerous risks involved in a Winter Storm. Many deaths are indirectly related to the storm, such as people who die of heart attacks while shoveling snow and hypothermia from the cold. In fact, the Blizzard of 1993 claimed 250 lives nationwide, 9 of which were in Ohio. This marks the nation's worst weather related calamity in over 20 years. Northern Ohio is usually treated a few times a year to winters wrath as heavy snow and wind plague our area. Here are some safety tips for winter storms:

When Caught in a Winter Storm

  • STAY IN YOUR CAR OR TRUCK! Disorientation occurs quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
    Tie a colored cloth (preferably red) to your antenna or door; turn on dome light while engine is on and raise hood after snow stops.
  • Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
  • Open the window a crack for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked.
  • Exercise from time to time by vigorously moving arms, legs, fingers and toes to keep blood circulating and to keep warm.
  • Find Shelter: try to stay dry, cover all exposed parts of the body.
  • No shelter:
    • Prepare a lean-to, wind-break, snow cave for protection from the wind.
    • Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
    • Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
    • DO NOT EAT SNOW.It will lower your body temperature. Melt it first.
  • If you have no heat:
    • Close off unneeded rooms.
    • Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
    • Cover the windows at night.
    • Eat and Drink. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.
    • Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing. Remove layers to avoid overheating,perspiration, and subsequent chill.
  • AVOID OVEREXERTION, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. the strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
    • Wear loose-fitting, light-weight clothing in several layers.
    • Trapped air insulates.
    • Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
    • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
    • Wear a hat. Half your body heat is lost through the head.
    • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
    • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
    • Try to stay dry.

Winter Weather Preparation

As we have said before, everyone is potentially at risk during a winter storm. The actual threat to you depends on your specific situation. About 70% of people who die in ice/snow events lost their life in automobiles. Another 25% were caught out in the storm itself. PREPARATION is the best way to reduce the risk of death or injury in the winter.Here are some ways you should be prepared:

  • USE COMMON SENSE- Many deaths occur by people not heeding the warning of the Weather Service.
  • DRESS TO FIT THE SEASON- Too many deaths result from overexposure to cold.
    • Plan your travel and check the latest weather reports.
    • Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins.
    • Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
    • Let people know where you are going and times of arrival.
    • Carry a WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT. This is what should be in the kit:
      • Blankets and sleeping bags
      • Flashlight with extra batteries
      • First-aid kit
      • Knife
      • High calorie, non-perishable food
      • Extra clothing to keep dry
      • Large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper for sanitary purposes.
      • Smaller can which may be used for melting drinking water.
      • Coffee can with waterproof matches to make a fire. You would be surprised how much heat can be produced from this.
      • Sack of sand or cat litter
      • Shovel
      • Windshield scraper and brush
      • Tool kit
      • Tow rope
      • Booster cables
      • Water Container
      • Compass and road maps.

Local Climate Water & Weather Topics:
Current Hazards, Ohio Conditions, Pennsylvania Conditions, Radar, Satellite, Climate, Safety
Contact Us

National Weather Service Forecast Office
Cleveland, Ohio
Federal Facilities Building
Cleveland Hopkins Airport
Cleveland, OH 44135
Phone: 216-265-2370
Web Administrator:Webmaster
Page last modified: 25 JAN, 2010
privacy policy
About Our Organization
Career Opportunities