First thing’s first. In a nutshell…

A tornado watch means a tornado is possible, and you should stay alert and watchful in case storms strengthen.

A tornado warning means a tornado has been seen, or indicated by weather radar, and you should take action and immediately seek shelter.

Although May typically marks the last month of tornado season, we’re not out of the woods yet. In fact, experts at AccuWeather forecast that this month could be an especially dangerous one because of a La Nina weather pattern, which means water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean becomes cooler than usual. This affects the trajectory of storm systems and can lead to an increased number of tornadoes.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, do you know what to do once a tornado touches down?

If You’re Outside

Ideally, you should seek safety in a basement, a shelter, or a sturdy building. But if you can’t quickly walk to a shelter, you should immediately get into a vehicle and drive to the nearest sturdy shelter. Remember to buckle your seat belt. En route to reaching a safe shelter stay away from bridges and highway overpasses.

While driving, if you encounter strong winds and flying debris you should pull over and park your vehicle. Keep your seat belt on and the engine running. During the storm, keep your head below the level of the windows. If you have a blanket use it to cover your head—if not, cover your head with your hands.

By the Way…

If you’ve ever seen the 1996 blockbuster movie Twister, where people called storm chasers track severe weather in the hopes that a tornado (twister) will materialize—for the sake of research, you’ve seen a depiction of how tornadoes can ravage anything in their path, how quickly they can shift directions, and how swift action once a warning is received can help save lives.