SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- October 3, 1979 in Windsor Locks, CT; June 1, 2011 in Springfield; July 27, 2014 in Dalton; and February 25, 2017 in Conway.

What do all these dates have in common? These were dates when tornadoes touched down in southern New England.

While many may think that tornadoes can occur in the spring and summer, these dates show that even in southern New England, we can see tornadoes any time of year, even during winter.

Similar to a severe thunderstorm watch, a tornado watch will be issued by the Storm Prediction Center when conditions are favorable for tornado development in and near the watch area.

When a tornado watch is issued, be ready to act quickly in the event a warning is issued.

When a tornado warning is issued, that is the time to take action. A tornado warning will be issued by the local National Weather Service office when a tornado has been sighted or indicated by doppler radar.

There is also a third, rarely used term called a tornado emergency. National Weather Service directives specify that tornado emergencies are reserved for rare situations when:

  • severe threat to human life is imminent or ongoing
  • catastrophic damage is imminent or ongoing
  • reliable sources confirm the tornado visually or radar imagery strongly suggests the existence of a damaging tornado

When a tornado warning has been issued, the best place to shelter in your home is in your basement or an interior room, putting as many walls between you and the storm as possible, staying away from windows. You should also cover your head with a helmet, blanket or pillows.

If you happen to be caught outside, you should try to seek shelter in a sturdy building. Locations such as sheds or storage facilities are not safe places to seek shelter.

If no sturdy shelter is available, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Also, get as far away from trees and cars as you can as they could be blown onto you in a tornado.

If you are caught in your vehicle, you should try to seek shelter in a sturdy building, but what if you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris? In that case, park the car as quickly and safely as possible, stay in the car with the seat belt on, put your head down below the windows, cover your head with your hands, and if possible a blanket, coat or other cushion.

We have all see videos of people seeking refuge from a tornado using a highway underpass as shelter. Many people think that a highway overpass will provide safety from a tornado, but the reality is an overpass may be one of the worst places to seek shelter from a tornado.

Reasons why include flying debris become dangerous missiles in the tornado airflow. When climbing up higher under an overpass, people will be exposed to higher wind speeds and more flying debris.

The narrow passage underneath an overpass could cause an increase in wind speed under the bridge. Many overpasses don't have girders or support beams for handholds.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

First Warning Meteorologist

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