Hotel Tornado Safety
Hotels strive to make guests feel comfortable, safe and even pampered, but even the solid walls of a well-built hotel can succumb to damage in a violent tornado. Much of the damage of a storm comes from flying debris, so seeking a safe haven away from hotel windows should be your primary goal. Be aware of your surroundings, become familiar with the hotel layout and stay alert to changes in the weather.
When a tornado warning or tornado watch is occurring during your stay in a hotel, remember to get to the lowest floor in your lower level or lowest level (like the ground level or basement tornado shelter area), listen to a weather radio for the National Weather Service (or NOAA) announcements, keep track of the weather forecast and radar, have a safety plan, stay away from windows and outside walls, listen for tornado sirens, stay towards the center of the building in an interior hallway or interior room, try to find a safe place or the safest place available to you that can act as a storm shelter.
Weather conditions are always likely to change and when severe storms and thunderstorms occur, tornados are a possibility, especially in Tornado Alley (like Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma City). There are many safety tips available for tornadoes, like staying under overpasses if driving, staying away from heavy objects, protecting yourself from high winds, etc.
Sign up for weather alerts. Many online weather forecasting sites, including weather.com, weatherunderground.com and accuweather.com, offer a severe weather alert service that delivers warnings to your mobile phone, personal digital assistant or computer via email or text message. You can customize the service to match your itinerary.
Pack for Emergencies
Invest in a small travel radio with a weather band if you're a frequent traveler. You can buy one online or at a retail store selling electronics. Pack a small flashlight to keep bedside or on your hotel room desk. Power outages frequently occur during outbreaks of tornadic activity. Even during daylight hours windowless hotel corridors can be difficult to navigate.
Prepare for Storms
As you check in, ask the clerk if there is a recommended room in the hotel where guests should gather in case of a weather emergency or other contingency. All public buildings have emergency exit routes; hotels post them on the backs of the room doors. The schematic drawing also offers an overview of the hotel layout that is useful in case of power failure, when you may need to use the stairs to reach safety.
Be alert to changes in the weather that may signify possible tornadic activity. Tornadoes are more likely to occur in the United States east of the Rockies during the spring and summer months, as cool fronts move eastward into warm, humid air. They also spin off during tropical storms and hurricanes. Ominous signs are a wall of clouds, dark, greenish skies and large hail, accompanied by the loud roar that witnesses often compare to a freight train.
A severe tornado packing winds up to 200 mph can inflict devastating damage on the sturdiest of buildings. Even a weak funnel cloud, lasting only a few minutes, can break windows and hurl debris. Many hotels have large glass windows on the outer walls of the guest rooms, posing a great risk of flying, broken glass. If a tornado seems imminent, move out of the room and seek a safe room in the hotel basement if time permits, or take a blanket for cover and retreat to an inside hallway. Tornadoes are likely to happen between 3 and 9 p.m., but can occur any time, so keep your shoes handy to avoid walking barefoot on debris after the storm passes.
Wait for All-Clear
Do not go back into your room if the hotel has sustained damage. Wait for emergency personnel to clear the space and advise you it is safe to move. Stay inside unless an evacuation is ordered, because the storm may have toppled power lines outside.
Forget Weather Myths
Tornadoes can happen near lakes and rivers, on mountain sides and even in winter. Typically, tornadoes move from southwest to northeast, but they have been recorded moving in other directions. The damage caused by tornadoes is not a myth--in an average year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about 800 tornadoes are reported, resulting in 80 deaths and more than 1,500 injuries.