During the Storm

The Essential Guide to Planning for Severe Weather

What to Do During a Severe Storm

After preparing your home and family, your job is to be patient, remain vigilant and respond accordingly to any weather updates. There are a variety of storm safety tips to keep in mind while you and your family wait for the weather to clear. All you have to do is remain in place and follow these steps.

Step #1

Get Indoors

Keep Away From Doors and Windows
There are numerous reasons to stay away from your doors and windows. High winds and hail damage can shatter windows, causing potentially severe injuries. Your home is also susceptible to lightning strikes. Touching or standing next to a window or door when lightning stikes can result in severe injury or death.

What NOT to Do During a Thunderstorm

Avoid the roads if at all possible. If members of your family are at different locations, tell them to stay where they are so long as it is safe.

Go Outside
Being outdoors is the worst place to be during severe weather. Seek shelter indoors immediately.

Talk on the Phone
Talking on a landline phone during a storm is the most common cause of indoor lightning injuries. Avoid contact with any appliances or devices connected to phone or electrical wires, including a plugged-in cell phone.

Get in the Water
An especially good storm safety tip for kids is to teach them to stay away from water, including lakes, neighborhood pools and the shower or bathtub when they hear thunder. Remind them that water is a great conductor of electricity - even a puddle can be dangerous when struck by lightning.

Thunderstorm Safety Precautions

If you can hear thunder: You are within 10 miles of a storm.

Use the 30-30 rule: When you see lightning, start counting until you hear thunder. If the time is 30 seconds or less, then the storm is within six miles and is dangerous. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard before leaving shelter.

Unplug computers and televisions: Surge protectors will not protect your devices in the event of a direct lightning strike. Unplug your devices to deprive lightning of a path to your electronics.

Keep Yourself and Your Family Occupied

Make sure you and your family have plenty to do to keep their minds off the storm. Some possibilities include:

  • Board Games
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Hide and Seek
  • Coloring Books

Always Play It Safe, Always Stay Inside

"As tempting as it may be to get video of lightning or hail during a storm, it is safest to stay inside your home away from windows. Lightning can strike through windows, and tornadoes can form quickly inside a thunderstorm. Small tornadoes can be wrapped with rain and difficult to see."

-Amy Sweezey | Meteorologist, WESH Orlando

Step #2

Track the Storm

One thing you should always do during a storm is stay informed. We all have our go-to source for weather updates, but during a severe storm it’s important to have access to a variety of weather services. This includes weather sites, apps, TV and radio stations. Here are a few weather services we recommend using for real-time storm updates.

Best Weather Sites for Storm Tracking

The National Weather Service

The National Weather Service (part of NOAA) provides detailed weather forecasts using their large network of weather stations and satellites – the same network every other weather service uses in their forecasting.

Weather Underground

With over 100,000 weather stations across the country, AccuWeather provides hyper-local forecasts and weather updates. Meteorologists, both professional and arm-chair, praise its customizable weather map, called the Wundermap.

Dark Sky Maps

The Dark Sky map offers basic, but highly accurate, weather updates. Their service achieves uncanny accuracy by using other available forecast data in calculating their predictions.

What Does 50 Percent Chance of Rain Mean?

"I have seen television stations across the country use it as the amount of time during the day that you will receive rain. So a 50% chance of rain means that half of your day will get rain. Others use it specifically in reference to their own confidence level that there will be rain at some point that day. There is a 50-50 chance that you will receive rain at your house within a given period of time (but isn't that true ANY day?)

At WESH I use 'chance of rain' more as coverage. If I put a 20% chance of rain on the forecast that means 20% of Central Florida will receive rain."

-Amy Sweezey | Meteorologist, WESH Orlando

Best Weather Apps for iPhone and Android

Free Applications

Yahoo Weather (iOS and Android)
Offers detailed hourly and weekly forecasts backdropped by images of your location that match the time of day and current weather conditions.

RainAware (iOS and Android)
Detailed radar imagery and real-time forecast updates allow you to see where the storm is now and where it will be in three hours.

Weather Underground (iOS and Android)
Combines super-detailed hourly and weekly forecasts with impressive radar imaging that includes the projected path of nearby storms.

Paid Applications

Dark Sky ($4, iOS and Android)
Offers beautiful weather visualizations, a global radar map and highly accurate, up-to-the-minute weather updates.

RadarScope ($10 Annually, iOS only)
Recommended for budding meteorologists or weather geeks, RadarScope offers high resolution radar data – the same level of detail used by pilots to navigate around storms.

Which TV Stations to Watch

The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel offers regular local weather reporting and also announces storm watches and warnings when issued.

Local News
Broadcast news channels (CBS, NBC, FOX, et al.) provide continuous coverage of extreme weather, and may be the first to report a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch. They will also provide advice on what to do during the storm that is specific to your local area.

NOAA Weather Alerts on VHF-FM Bands













NOAA Weather Radio (NWR)
NOAA maintains a network of radio stations that continuously broadcast forecasts, warnings, watches and other severe weather alerts. No matter where you are in the country, you can always receive NOAA weather alerts by tuning your weather radio to any of these seven frequencies, broadcast over VHF-FM bands.

Local Emergency Stations
In addition to NWR, there are many local radio stations that provide weather alerts during severe weather. Look up your local emergency radio station on this list and save it as a preset in your car or portable radio. (All frequencies are AM unless otherwise noted.)

You can also follow emergency broadcasts on your phone using a radio app, such as:

  • TuneIn Radio (Free, iOS and Android)
  • Simple Radio (Free, iOS and Android)

Use a Home Weather Station to Stay One Step Ahead

"We recommend a robust and expandable weather station with an indoor display and remote monitoring capabilities that allows you to accurately monitor your environmental surroundings. With a weather station that monitors a variety of environmental conditions in and around your home, you can keep your family and property safe from damage caused by high wind speeds, flooding, high UV index, or lightning strikes, as well as detecting conditions to avert mold and mildew in your home...Remote monitoring through a mobile app allows you to expand the system to monitor other conditions like leak detection and risk of mold at anytime from anywhere."

-Larry Meadows | Sr. Director of Marketing, AcuRite

Step #3

Take Action if the Storm Worsens

If the storm becomes dangerous, your first priority is to ensure the safety of yourself and your family. Now is the time to put your family emergency plan in place. If an evacuation order is given, as in the event of a hurricane, grab your emergency kit and leave with your family. If not, shelter in place and follow these storm safety tips.

What's the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning?


The atmospheric conditions exist for a thunderstorm or tornado to occur.


A thunderstorm or tornado has been seen or indicated on radar in your area.

"Watches are issued when severe weather is POSSIBLE. It’s a "heads-up" to WATCH OUT and listen to a news source until the watch expires. Be prepared for severe weather to occur. Warnings are issued when severe weather is HAPPENING NOW. A severe storm or tornado has been spotted by a person or by radar. Follow instructions given on your radio or TV and follow your family’s plan for severe weather until the warning expires."

-Amy Sweezey | Meteorologist, WESH Orlando

What to Do During a Severe Storm Warning

Move Underground
Take shelter immediately in your basement and stay away from any windows or exterior doors.

Protect Yourself
Put on a pair of shoes to protect your feet from splintered wood and nails. If you or your family members have bike helmets, put them on to protect yourselves from head trauma.

Grab Pets
Take your pets with you, either in a carrier or on a leash. Make sure their ID tag is on their collar in case they get loose.

What to Do With Your Pets in an Emergency Evacuation

"The ideal option is always to take your pets with you. If that's not possible, there are numerous nonprofit organizations who will respond when a disaster strikes. If you have to leave them behind, leave a note outside your home indicating that your pet is inside, and be sure to leave them with food and water."

-Rebecca Rodriguez | President, EvacPet

Where to Go if Your Home Has No Basement

Storm Shelter
If you have a storm shelter, move everyone into it before the storm arrives.

Interior Hallways
If you don’t have a storm shelter, get everyone to the lowest central point of your home and have them cover their heads with their hands.

Bathtub or Closet
The absolute last resort is to shelter inside a bathtub or closet. The idea is to put as many walls and other obstacles between you and any flying debris. If you have time, grab a mattress to lay on top of yourself and family members.

What to Do in the Event of a Flood

Don’t Touch Electrical Outlets
Not even light switches. If water has come into contact with your home’s circuits you could be electrocuted.

Stay Out of the Flood Water
You could easily cut yourself on submerged debris, as well as expose yourself to disease and dangerous animals lurking in the water.

Move to Higher Ground
Move to the upper levels of your home. Stay as close to the center as possible until the storm passes.

What to Do When Your Basement Floods

"The first thing [is] to get all electronics and valuables out of the basement. Once everything is safe and recovered, call a waterproofing contractor to come look at the issue. Many people want [to] attribute the event to a "fluke," especially if the rain was extraordinary. If water got in once, it will get in again. Do not be fooled."

-Austin Werner | President, Real Seal LLC

The best advice on what to do during a storm is simply not to panic. As long as you prepare in advance, trust your instincts and keep as far away from the wind and rain as possible, you and your family will emerge from the storm just fine. After that comes the real work: cleaning up the debris it left behind.