how long do tornado warnings last

Tornado sirens provide a warning when tornadoes have been spotted, but how long do tornado warnings last?

When there is a tornado warning in effect, you should visit weather Websites on the Internet or listen to the radio.

There you can check where the storms are, how they are moving, and what actions you need to take.

National Weather Service meteorologists will generally issue warnings that override any previously issued tornado-watch notices if an oncoming tornado is detected by radar. These warnings will remain in effect for about 30 minutes.

If a tornado is persistent, though, a warning can be extended.

A Tornado Warning Vs. Tornado Watch

Watching tornadoes and knowing when to take cover are both important.

But the purpose of each of these warning systems and the actions they require are different.

The National Weather Service issues tornado watches and warnings, which signal different things. You should have a different response to each one.

Tornado watches are issued by the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

They issue these hours in advance, alerting residents of an area that conditions are ideal for forming a tornado.

Tornado warnings indicate where tornadoes have been sighted or detected on radar.

Fact: Tornado warning is issued by a local National Weather Service meteorologist on behalf of an emergency management agency.

Tornadoes in North America

tornadoes north america

Tornadoes, most often occurring in the spring and summer in the United States and Canada, can happen during any season if thunderstorms are present.

In the United States, tornadoes most often occur from March to June, with over half of all tornadoes occurring during May.

Tornadoes tend to occur most often in the Midwest, Southeast, and Tornado Alley.

This area is dominated by the confluence of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and dry, windy conditions from the Rocky Mountains.

This can create an environment ripe for tornado formation.

Alaska and Tornado Warnings

Alaska’s cold temperatures mean that it doesn’t experience tornadoes, which form in the U.S. during the spring and summer when warm, moist air from storms meets dry, hot air from the ground.

However, Alaska does experience other types of severe weather, including blizzards and hailstorms.

Note: It follows that the months and localities in these areas experience the most tornado warnings compared to other parts of the USA.

Nature of Tornado Warnings

tornado warnings last

Are tornado warnings severe?


Cities and towns must have outdoor siren systems to warn people of dangers, such as tornadoes.

In the United States, these must be implanted according to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Tornado Warning Sirens

The outdoor sirens are meant to be heard outdoors and provide a fair warning of potential danger.

However, they can also be heard indoors but likely will not penetrate the walls of a building.

People who live in cities typically have designated safe places to go if a tornado is approaching.

The safe locations chosen by city-dwellers are often at their workplaces or favorite places in town.

These locations need to allow people to hear the sirens from both inside and outside while minimizing any interfering noises from traffic or other events nearby.

Verifying a Tornado Warning

When a tornado is threatening you and your home, try to verify the warnings about a tornado by looking for signs such as dark clouds that rotate.

If this is not enough, listen to the radio or television for confirmation from a weather service.

When you hear that a tornado has been spotted in your area, take immediate steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

You can do so by going to an interior room on the lowest level of your house, preferably in the center, such as a basement.

Do not open windows or doors.

Weather Changes

Be alert for any changes in the weather, especially a sudden drop in wind speed and an almost still air.

Tornadoes are most likely to occur when a thunderstorm is nearby.

Before a tornado hits, the wind can die down, and the air may become still. Tornadoes can be illuminated by sunlight behind them.

Note: Protect yourselves from flying debris by covering your head and neck with a blanket or pillow for protection and lying down on the floor under heavy furniture.

What to do After a Tornado Warning

what to do in tornado warning

Knowing how long do tornado warnings last will undoubtedly help make the right split-second decisions in case a tornado approaches.

What you do after a tornado warning matters a lot because it could mean you saving your life and avoiding injuries. Here’s how to react in case of a tornado warning:

At Home

Immediately you hear a tornado warning, figure out the safest place to watch the storm.

It can be the interior of an underground shelter or a small, protected room, preferably on the lowest floor of a sturdy building.

If you cannot get to such a safe place, go to a windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and get under a piece of sturdy furniture such as a workbench or heavy table.

Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.

At School

In the event of a tornado warning at school:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Locate the safest place to shelter, such as an interior hallway or room.
  3. Lie face down with your hands covering the back of your head.
  4. Protect yourself from potential flying debris.

At the Mall

If there is a tornado warning while at the mall, go to the designated shelter area, such as under a stairwell, or the center of the building on a low level.

You can also seek shelter in an area designated by the mall’s management if there is one available.

Note: Tornado warnings are issued using different alert systems.

In all cases, residents should know what type of alert system their community uses and be familiar with the safest places to take cover based on the type of tornado forecast.


Tornado warnings can catch you off guard if you’re outside doing your day-to-day activities.

Immediately you hear a warning, lie down in a ditch or low-lying area until the storm passes.

If you cannot get inside, crouch next to a strong building to protect yourself from hail and other debris. Protect your neck and head with your hands.

In the Car

When a tornado warning sounds while you’re in your car, pull off the road and leave your car immediately to seek shelter in a sturdy building.

If there’s no safe shelter nearby, get out of the car and lie in a ditch or low-lying area, away from your car.

This will help to minimize the danger of flying debris, such as broken glass and rebar.

Night Time Tornado Warnings

night tornado warnings

At night, you get neither a good view of a tornado nor the funnel cloud that often precedes it.

You hear it rumbling long before you think to look for it.

The rumble is louder than day sounds, and if it gets louder, then you have time to seek shelter.

The storm’s damage to trees and power lines, which your local weather service has noted before they issue a warning, is the easiest way for a human to track a tornado at night.

If the storm is on the weather radar, you should seek shelter immediately.

Read Next: What Happens if a Tornado Picks you Up?

Final Thought

Tornado warnings alert a specific area of possible tornadoes.

If you are wondering how long do tornado warnings last it’s important to note that they last for 30 minutes to 8 hours, after which the alert is no longer in effect.

It’s important to have an emergency plan in case a tornado does form during that time period.

When there is a tornado warning, go to the basement or the safe room and stay there for the duration of the tornado.

If you do not have a safe room or a basement, go to the interior room on the lowest level of your home and get under a heavy piece of furniture such as a workbench or heavy table.